Nov 132017

On this date in 1841 Scottish surgeon James Braid first saw a demonstration of “animal magnetism,” which led him to study the subject and came up with his own, rather different version which he eventually called hypnotism. The concept of “animal magnetism” had been developed by Franz Mesmer (1734–1815) who believed that there is a magnetic force or “fluid” within the universe that influences the health of the human body. In consequence he experimented with magnets in order to promote healing. By around 1774, he had concluded that the same effect could be created by passing the hands in front of the subject’s body, later referring to this action as making “Mesmeric passes.” He used the word “mesmerize,” formed from his last name, to distinguish practitioners of mesmerism from the various “fluid” and “magnetic” theories included within the label “magnetism” at the time.

In 1784, at the request of Louis XVI of France, a Board of Inquiry started to investigate whether animal magnetism existed. Among the board members were Antoine Lavoisier, Benjamin Franklin, and Dr Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, who, despite giving his name to a method of execution that he did not invent, was an expert on the management of pain. They investigated the practices of a disaffected student of Mesmer, Charles d’Eslon (1750–1786), and though they concluded that Mesmer’s results were valid, their placebo-controlled experiments using d’Eslon’s methods convinced them that the positive effects of mesmerism were most likely due to belief and imagination rather than to an invisible energy (“animal magnetism”) transmitted from the body of the mesmerist. In writing the majority opinion, Franklin said: “This fellow Mesmer is not flowing anything from his hands that I can see. Therefore, this mesmerism must be a fraud.” Mesmer left Paris and went back to Vienna to practice mesmerism there.


Following the French committee’s findings, Dugald Stewart, an influential academic philosopher of the Scottish School of Common Sense, encouraged physicians in his Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind (1818) to salvage elements of Mesmerism by replacing the supernatural theory of “animal magnetism” with a new interpretation based upon “common sense” laws of physiology and psychology. Braid quotes the following passage from Stewart:

It appears to me, that the general conclusions established by Mesmer’s practice, with respect to the physical effects of the principle of imagination (more particularly in cases where they co-operated together), are incomparably more curious than if he had actually demonstrated the existence of his boasted science [“animal magnetism”]: nor can I see any good reason why a physician, who admits the efficacy of the moral [i.e., psychological] agents employed by Mesmer, should, in the exercise of his profession, scruple to copy whatever processes are necessary for subjecting them to his command, any more than that he should hesitate about employing a new physical agent, such as electricity or galvanism.

In Braid’s day, the Scottish School of Common Sense provided the dominant theories of academic psychology, and Braid refers to other philosophers within this tradition throughout his writings. Braid therefore revised the theory and practice of Mesmerism and developed his own method of hypnotism as a more rational and common sense alternative.

It may here be requisite for me to explain, that by the term Hypnotism, or Nervous Sleep, which frequently occurs in the following pages, I mean a peculiar condition of the nervous system, into which it may be thrown by artificial contrivance, and which differs, in several respects, from common sleep or the waking condition. I do not allege that this condition is induced through the transmission of a magnetic or occult influence from my body into that of my patients; nor do I profess, by my processes, to produce the higher [i.e., supernatural] phenomena of the Mesmerists. My pretensions are of a much more humble character, and are all consistent with generally admitted principles in physiological and psychological science. Hypnotism might therefore not inaptly be designated, Rational Mesmerism, in contra-distinction to the Transcendental Mesmerism of the Mesmerists.

Despite briefly toying with the name “rational Mesmerism”, Braid ultimately chose to emphasize the unique aspects of his approach, carrying out informal experiments throughout his career in order to refute practices that invoked supernatural forces and demonstrating instead the role of ordinary physiological and psychological processes, such as suggestion, and focused attention on producing the observed effects.

Braid worked very closely with his friend and ally the eminent physiologist William Benjamin Carpenter, an early neuro-psychologist who introduced the “ideo-motor reflex” theory of suggestion. Carpenter had observed instances of expectation and imagination apparently influencing involuntary muscle movement. A classic example of the ideo-motor principle in action is the so-called “Chevreul pendulum” (named after Michel Eugène Chevreul). Chevreul claimed that divinatory pendulae (or divining rods and the like) were made to swing by unconscious muscle movements brought about by focused concentration alone.


Braid soon assimilated Carpenter’s observations into his own theory, realizing that the effect of focusing attention was to enhance the ideo-motor reflex response. Braid extended Carpenter’s theory to encompass the influence of the mind upon the body more generally, beyond the muscular system, and therefore referred to the “ideo-dynamic” response and coined the term “psycho-physiology” to refer to the study of general mind/body interaction.

In his later works, Braid reserved the term “hypnotism” for cases in which subjects entered a state of altered consciousness resembling sleep. For other cases, he spoke of a “mono-ideodynamic” principle to emphasize that the eye-fixation induction technique worked by narrowing the subject’s attention to a single idea or train of thought (“monoideism”), which amplified the effect of the consequent “dominant idea” upon the subject’s body by means of the ideo-dynamic principle.

For several decades Braid’s work became more influential abroad than in his own country, except for a handful of followers, most notably Dr. John Milne Bramwell. The eminent neurologist Dr. George Miller Beard took Braid’s theories to the United States. Meanwhile, his works were translated into German by William Thierry Preyer, professor of physiology at Jena University. The psychiatrist Albert Moll subsequently continued German research, publishing Hypnotism in 1889. France became the focal point for the study of Braid’s ideas after the eminent neurologist Dr. Étienne Eugène Azam translated Braid’s last manuscript (On Hypnotism, 1860) into French and presented Braid’s research to the French Academy of Sciences. At the request of Azam, Paul Broca, and others at the French Academy of Science, which had investigated Mesmerism in 1784, examined Braid’s writings shortly after his death in 1860.

Azam’s enthusiasm for hypnotism influenced Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault, a country doctor. Hippolyte Bernheim discovered Liébeault’s enormously popular group hypnotherapy clinic and subsequently became an influential hypnotist. The study of hypnotism subsequently revolved around the fierce debate between Bernheim and Jean-Martin Charcot, the two most influential figures in late 19th-century hypnotism. Charcot operated a clinic at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, while Bernheim had a clinic in Nancy (known as the “Nancy School”). Charcot, who was influenced more by the Mesmerists, argued that hypnotism was an abnormal state of nervous functioning found only in certain hysterical women. He claimed that it manifested in a series of physical reactions that could be divided into distinct stages. Bernheim argued that anyone could be hypnotized, that it was an extension of normal psychological functioning, and that its effects were due to suggestion. After decades of debate, Bernheim’s view dominated. Charcot’s theory is now just a historical curiosity.

Pierre Janet (1859–1947) reported studies on a hypnotic subject in 1882. Charcot subsequently appointed him director of the psychological laboratory at the Salpêtrière in 1889, after Janet had completed his Ph.D., which dealt with psychological automatism. In 1898, Janet was appointed psychology lecturer at the Sorbonne, and in 1902 he became chair of experimental and comparative psychology at the Collège de France. Janet reconciled elements of his views with those of Bernheim and his followers, developing his own sophisticated hypnotic psychotherapy based upon the concept of psychological dissociation, which, at the turn of the century, rivaled Freud’s attempt to provide a more comprehensive theory of psychotherapy.


Freud studied hypnotism at the Paris School under Charcot and briefly visited the Nancy School. At first, Freud was an enthusiastic proponent of hypnotherapy. At first he hypnotized patients and used various techniques to help them concentrate while attempting to recover (supposedly) repressed memories. Subsequently he began to emphasize both hypnotic regression and ab reaction (catharsis) as therapeutic methods. He wrote a favorable encyclopedia article on hypnotism, translated one of Bernheim’s works into German, and published an influential series of case studies with his colleague Joseph Breuer entitled Studies on Hysteria (1895). This became the founding text of the subsequent tradition known as “hypno-analysis” or “regression hypnotherapy”.

However, Freud gradually abandoned hypnotism in favor of psychoanalysis, emphasizing free association and interpretation of the unconscious. Struggling with the great expense of time that psychoanalysis required, Freud later suggested that it might be combined with hypnotic suggestion to hasten the outcome of treatment, but that this would probably weaken the outcome. He wrote, “It is very probable, too, that the application of our therapy to numbers will compel us to alloy the pure gold of analysis plentifully with the copper of direct [hypnotic] suggestion.” Only a handful of Freud’s followers were sufficiently qualified in hypnosis to attempt the synthesis of conventional psychoanalysis with hypnosis. Their work had a limited influence on the hypno-therapeutic approaches now known variously as “hypnotic regression,” “hypnotic progression,” and “hypnoanalysis.”

There is a strange relationship between hypnosis, primarily self-hypnosis, and cooking that I am dimly aware of from the internet.

Knowing what and how to cook your nutritious foods is just as important as the foods themselves. This site, for example, offers help in all manner of mental health issues from phobias to addictions as well as a variety of lifestyle disorders.   Apparently hypnosis can also help if you struggle with cooking for the following reasons:

There are tons of ways to cook and some ways are healthier than others. We will go over barbecue, sauté, grilling, steaming, baking, and everything in between. We have recommendations that are simple and delicious. Ditch that micro-wave, we can show you how to cook meals with limited time. Even though we won’t be in your kitchen we will have support material to guide you through.

Many individuals get off work late and don’t feel like they have enough energy to cook a meal. Some people just don’t have enough time and others, plain and simple, can’t cook. To that first group, energy perpetuates. Try it my way for a week and see if you are still too tired to make a meal. All of that fast food and those frozen processed microwavable dinners are not giving you the nutrients you need and by replacing them with a healthier choice you will see a change. To that second group, I am a time bandit! If you can’t find it I will steal it for you. I used to get home at 11:00 at night and still cook my meals, if there’s a will there’s a way. To that last group, I was once in your shoes and I learned just like anything else this takes effort. I will have some step by step information to assist your new endeavors, never give up.

I am neither a clinical psychologist nor a professional hypnotist, so I cannot speak to the effectiveness of this treatment for the “maladies” described. Lack of energy, time, or knowledge are not problems I have when it comes to cooking, and my amateur opinion is that hypnosis is not going to be much help in this regard – but what do I know? Hypnosis versus a good cooking class as effective ways to learn how to cook? Not a tough choice in my opinion, although I do understand that some people think cooking is more complex than it is. To be fair, some things that seem pretty simple, such as French-fried potatoes or omelets, are not as easy as they seem. If you are a novice, leave them to experienced cooks. But there’s a mountain of great dishes that are very simple and are not just a few boiled things on a plate. Here’s a decent video on a good dish – 5 ingredient lemon chicken with asparagus. A little commentary is in order, though. First, a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, is the best cooking utensil; otherwise non-stick, using a little butter in the pan, more for flavor and color than to avoid sticking. Second, use medium-high heat throughout. Third, make sure the chicken is thoroughly browned on both sides, and let it rest after cooking. It’s important that it’s not raw in the middle, but also that it’s not overcooked and dry. If it’s brown on both sides and has had a chance to rest it should be cooked through. You can check by cutting into one of the breasts.

Nov 292016


Today is the birthday (1825) of Jean-Martin Charcot, a legendary French neurologist and professor of anatomical pathology now mostly forgotten outside of professional medicine and psychology. He is known in the history of medicine as one of the founders of modern neurology and his name has been associated with at least 15 medical eponyms, including Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease and Charcot disease (better known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), motor neurone disease, or Lou Gehrig disease in the U.S.). He is also credited with being the first to diagnose multiple sclerosis. His work greatly influenced doctors in the developing fields of neurology and psychology, especially his student Sigmund Freud, who initially adopted many of his ideas, but then moved off in new directions. Much of Charcot’s theory and practice in hysteria and hypnosis which was highly regarded in his time has now been debunked, but he blazed the trail on the road to discovery of the subconscious mind in significant ways. Whether we should thank him for this discovery or not is another matter.

Charcot was a native Parisian who worked and taught at the famous Salpêtrière Hospital for 33 years. His reputation as an instructor drew students from all over Europe. In 1882, he established a neurology clinic at Salpêtrière, which was the first of its kind in Europe. Charcot was a part of the French neurological tradition and studied under, and greatly revered, Duchenne de Boulogne whom Charcot credited as the true father of neurology. Medical historians credit Duchenne, not Charcot, with being the first to bring discipline and focus to what beforehand had been a sprawling and incoherent mess of diagnoses and treatments.


Charcot named and was the first to describe multiple sclerosis. Summarizing previous reports and adding his own clinical and pathological observations, Charcot called the disease sclérose en plaques. The three signs of Multiple sclerosis now known as Charcot’s triad 1 are nystagmus, intention tremor, and telegraphic speech, though these are not unique to MS. Charcot also observed cognition changes, describing his patients as having a “marked enfeeblement of the memory” and “conceptions that formed slowly.” He was also the first to describe a disorder known as Charcot joint or Charcot arthropathy, a degeneration of joint surfaces resulting from loss of proprioception. He also researched the functions of different parts of the brain and the role of arteries in cerebral hemorrhage.

Charcot was one of three physicians to describe ALS. The announcement was made simultaneously with Pierre Marie of France (his resident) and Howard Henry Tooth of England. Therefore it was originally known as Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease (CMT). It can also be called peroneal muscular atrophy, but ALS is the more common term. Most people with ALS die from respiratory failure within 2 to 4 years of diagnosis. Stephen Hawking, who has lived for 50 years with the disease, is a rare case.

Charcot’s studies between 1868 and 1881 were a landmark in the understanding of Parkinson’s disease. Among other advances, he accurately codified distinctions in symptoms, such as, rigidity, weakness and bradykinesia (slow movement), as well as classifying variations.  The disease was formerly named paralysis agitans (shaking palsy), but Charcot had it renamed after James Parkinson.


Charcot was famous in his day for his studies of hypnosis and hysteria, although his work is now largely discredited. Sometimes going down the wrong path can be fruitful. He initially believed that hysteria was a neurological disorder for which patients were pre-disposed by hereditary features of their nervous system, but near the end of his life concluded that hysteria was a psychological disease. Charcot first began studying hysteria after creating a special ward for women with “hystero-epilepsy.” He classified two distinct forms of hysteria among these women: minor hysteria and major hysteria. His interest in hysteria and hypnotism coincided with a public interest in what were called ‘animal magnetism’ or ‘mesmerism’ – methods of inducing hypnosis in a variety of arenas including spiritualism and spiritual healing that had been kicking around in Europe since the 17th century. Charcot’s use of hypnosis to help patients he diagnosed with hysteria, led to considerable notoriety and mixed reception. For Charcot, the ability to be hypnotized was a clinical feature of hysteria such that at the outset he considered the susceptibility to hypnotism to be synonymous with hysteria. Later he distinguished between grand hypnotisme (in hysterics) and petit hypnotisme (in ordinary people).


Charcot’s position on hypnosis was sharply criticized by Hippolyte Bernheim, who was also a leading neurologist at the time. Actually Charcot, and his student Georges Gilles de la Tourette (after whom Charcot named Tourette’s syndrome), long had qualms about the use of hypnosis in treatment and about its effect on patients. He also was concerned that the sensationalism hypnosis attracted had robbed it of its scientific interest. It’s fair to say that the jury is still out.

Charcot thought of art as a crucial tool of his clinical methods. He used photos and drawings, many made by himself or his students, in his classes and conferences. He also drew outside the neurology domain, as a personal hobby. Like his mentor Duchenne, he is considered a key figure in the incorporation of photography in the study of neurological cases.


In October 1885, Freud went to Paris on a fellowship to study with Charcot, and later described the experience of this stay as catalytic in turning him toward the practice of medical psychopathology and away from a less financially promising career in neurological research. It is not recognized enough that Freud always had an eye towards fame and profitability in his career, and that neither he nor Charcot were averse to sensationalism and public acclaim.

Freud began using hypnosis in his clinical work under the influence of Charcot, but then steered away from his approach, using it to encourage patients to release hidden memories rather than as a cure via hypnotic suggestion. Freud’s treatment of one particular patient, Anna O., involved inviting her to talk about her symptoms while under hypnosis. In the course of talking in this way these symptoms became reduced in severity as she retrieved memories of traumatic incidents associated with their onset. She called it the “talking cure” which was subsequently a signature method for Freud — for which he is rarely credited in the popular mind these days, as people, who have never read or studied Freud, habitually dismiss him as a sexist quack. Charcot might suffer the same fate were it not for the fact that he is h

Food that is good for the brain is a hot topic these days, although medical opinion goes through shifts in opinion now and again. In earlier centuries walnuts were considered to be good for the brain following the homeopathic principal that walnuts look like brains so must be good for them. Nowadays nutritional research tends to be more empirical and statistical, although causative principles are still hard to come by. Thus, people who eat diets rich in unsaturated fats, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, and whole grains, have fewer neural problems than people who eat diets rich in red meat, dairy products, and sugars. Likewise, simple, natural ingredients are better than processed foods for a healthy brain. Walnut crusted baked salmon combines the theories of two eras, and is delicious.


Walnut Crusted Baked Salmon


1 ½ cups shelled walnuts
3 tbsp dry breadcrumbs
3 tbsp finely grated lemon rind
1 ½ tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
salt and pepper
6 3-oz salmon fillets, skin on
Dijon mustard
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice


Place the walnuts in a food processor and chop them coarsely. Add the breadcrumbs, lemon rind, olive oil and dill. Pulse a few times to mix until thoroughly combined and sticks together when pressed.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange the salmon fillets skin side down on parchment paper lined baking sheets. Brush the tops with mustard.

Divide the walnut-crumb mixture into 6 and spoon a portion over each fillet and gently press it into the surface of the fish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 hours.

Bake at 350°F 15 to 20 minutes, or until salmon flakes with a fork. Just before serving, sprinkle each with  lemon juice.

Apr 222016


Today is the birthday (1884) of Otto Rank, Austrian psychoanalyst, writer, and teacher. Born in Vienna as Otto Rosenfeld, he was one of Sigmund Freud’s closest colleagues for 20 years, a prolific writer on psychoanalytic themes, an editor of the two most important analytic journals of his day, managing director of Freud’s publishing house and a creative theorist and therapist. In 1926, after a break with Freud, Rank left Vienna for Paris. For the remaining 14 years of his life, Rank had a successful career as a lecturer, writer and therapist in France and the United States. Unlike Freud, Rank’s is not a household name, but it ought to be. His work is arguably more influential nowadays than Freud’s is.

In 1905, at the age of 21, Otto Rank presented Freud with a short manuscript on the artist, a study that so impressed Freud he invited Rank to become Secretary of the emerging Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. Rank thus became the first paid member of the psychoanalytic movement, and Freud’s general assistant for almost 20 years. Freud considered Rank, with whom he was more intimate intellectually than his own sons, to be the most brilliant of his Viennese disciples.

Encouraged and supported by Freud, Rank (who had attended a vocational high school), completed the “Gymnasium” (college-preparatory high school), attended the University of Vienna, and completed his Ph.D. in 1911. His thesis, on the Lohengrin Saga, was the first Freudian doctoral dissertation.


Rank was one of Freud’s six collaborators brought together in a secret “committee” or “ring” to defend the psychoanalytic mainstream as disputes with Adler and then Jung developed. Rank was the most prolific author in the “ring” besides Freud himself, extending psychoanalytic theory to the study of legend, myth, art, and other works of creativity. He worked closely with Freud, contributing two chapters on myth and legend to later editions of The Interpretation of Dreams. Rank’s name appeared underneath Freud’s on the title page for many years. Between 1915 and 1918, Rank served as Secretary of the International Psychoanalytical Association which Freud had founded in 1910. Everyone in the small psychoanalytic world understood how much Freud respected Rank and his prolific creativity in expanding psychoanalytic theory.

In 1924, Rank published Das Trauma der Geburt (translated into English as The Trauma of Birth in 1929), exploring how art, myth, religion, philosophy and therapy were illuminated by separation anxiety in the “phase before the development of the Oedipus complex..”  But there was no such phase in Freud’s theories. For Freud the Oedipus complex was the nucleus of neurosis and the foundational source of all art, myth, religion, philosophy, therapy – indeed of all human culture and civilization. It was the first time that anyone in the inner circle had dared to suggest that the Oedipus complex might not be the supreme causal factor in psychoanalysis. Rank was the first to use the term “pre-Oedipal” in a public psychoanalytic forum in 1925.

After some hesitation, Freud distanced himself from The Trauma of Birth, signaling to other members of his inner circle that Rank was perilously close to anti-Oedipal heresy. “I am boiling with rage,” Freud told Sándor Ferenczi then Rank’s best friend. Confronted with Freud’s decisive opposition, Rank resigned in protest from his positions as Vice-President of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, director of Freud’s publishing house, and co-editor of Imago and Zeitschrift. Ferenczi, with whom Rank had collaborated from 1920 through 1924 on new experiential, object-relational and “here-and-now” approaches to therapy, vacillated on the significance of Rank’s pre-Oedipal theory but not on Rank’s objections to classical analytic technique.


Rank was the first to see therapy as a learning and unlearning experience. Rank saw the therapeutic relationship as allowing the patient to: (1) learn more creative ways of thinking, feeling and being in the here-and-now; and (2) unlearn self-destructive ways of thinking, feeling and being in the here-and-now. For him, patterns of self-destruction (“neurosis”) represent a failure of creativity not, as Freud assumed, a retreat from sexuality.

Rank’s psychology of creativity has recently been applied to action learning, an inquiry-based process of group problem solving, team building, leader development and organizational learning. Transformative action learning, synthesized by Robert Kramer from Rank’s writings on art and spirituality, involves real people, working on real problems in real time. Once a safe space is created by an executive coach, questions allow group members to “step out of the frame of the prevailing ideology,” as Rank wrote in Art and Artist, reflect on their assumptions and beliefs, and reframe their choices. The process of “stepping out” of a frame, out of a form of knowing – a prevailing ideology – is analogous to the work of artists as they struggle to give birth to fresh ways of seeing the world, perspectives that allow them to see aspects of the world that no artists, including themselves, have ever seen before. The heart of transformative action learning, as developed by Kramer, is asking powerful questions to promote the unlearning or letting go of taken-for-granted assumptions and beliefs.

Rank believed that the most creative artists, such as Rembrandt, Michelangelo and Leonardo, know how to separate even from their own greatest public successes, from earlier artistic incarnations of themselves. Their “greatness consists precisely in this reaching out beyond themselves, beyond the ideology which they have themselves fostered.” Through the lens of Rank’s work on understanding art and artists, transformative action learning can be seen as the never-completed process of learning how to “step out of the frame” of the ruling mindset, whether one’s own or the culture’s – in other words, of learning how to unlearn.


Comparing the process of unlearning to the “breaking out” process of birth, Rank was the first psychologist to suggest that a continual capacity to separate from “internal mental objects” – from internalized institutions, beliefs and neuroses; from the restrictions of culture, social conformity and received wisdom – is the sine qua non for lifelong creativity. In a 1938 lecture, Rank said:

Life in itself is a mere succession of separations. Beginning with birth, going through several weaning periods and the development of the individual personality, and finally culminating in death – which represents the final separation. At birth, the individual experiences the first shock of separation, which throughout his life he strives to overcome. In the process of adaptation, man persistently separates from his old self, or at least from those segments off his old self that are now outlived. Like a child who has outgrown a toy, he discards the old parts of himself for which he has no further use ….The ego continually breaks away from its worn-out parts, which were of value in the past but have no value in the present. The neurotic [who cannot unlearn, and, therefore, lacks creativity] is unable to accomplish this normal detachment process … Owing to fear and guilt generated in the assertion of his own autonomy, he is unable to free himself, and instead remains suspended upon some primitive level of his evolution.

I would, perhaps, be a little less optimistic in my view of the world because, in my experience, people don’t unlearn enough, often enough. Many people stay trapped in conventional modes of thought, and follow routines that are not productive, and do not make them happy, because they are afraid to let go. One of my common mantras in life is – “your comfort zone is your enemy.”


So let’s break out a little with the Viennese version of goulash. Goulash came to Austria from Hungary when Vienna was the cultural center of the Austro-Hungarian Empire but was changed in the process. The Wiener Saftgulasch is now a fixture on Viennese menus. A variation of the Wiener Saftgulasch is the Fiakergulasch, which is served with a fried egg, fried or boiled sausage, pickle and either dumplings (Semmelknödel) or potatoes. This goulash is just meat and onions plus seasonings that have been cooked until the meat is very tender. It is best made the day before and then reheated. Sacher sausage is Vienna sausage, similar to frankfurters. Traditionally the recipe used lard or dripping for frying. You can vary the proportions of sweet and hot paprika to suit your taste. And . . . if you are a good student of Rank you will not make the dish the same way twice.



1 kg stewing beef, cut in cubes
4-6 eggs
4-6 pickled gherkins
2-3 pairs Sacher sausages
750 g onions, peeled and sliced coarsely
⅔ cup cooking oil
2 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp hot paprika
3 cloves garlic, bruised and minced
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp marjoram
2 bay leaves
1 tsp caraway seeds, chopped
¼ cup vinegar
freshly ground pepper
butter (for frying eggs)


Heat the oil in a deep oven-proof pot and fry the onions over medium heat until golden brown, stirring and turning regularly. Add the paprika powder and tomato paste, stir, and quickly pour in the vinegar and a little water. Add the cubed meat with salt and pepper to taste to the pot. Stir in the garlic, marjoram, bay leaves and caraway, and pour in enough water so that the meat is covered. Stir, and simmer on medium heat, semi-covered, for about 2 1/2 hours. Stir from time to time, and add water as needed. When the meat is very tender, take the pot off the stove and place it in a moderately-warm oven (120°C) for about 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight.

Next day, reheat the goulash and check the seasoning. Heat water for the sausages and simmer gently for about 5 minutes (or fry them in a little oil). Heat the butter in a pan, and fry the eggs. Slice the gherkins in the shape of a fan.

Serve the goulash on warmed plates. Place the fried eggs on top of the goulash, and one sausage on the side. Garnish with gherkins. Serve with dumplings or boiled potatoes and dark rye bread.

Serves 4-6

Feb 072016


Today is the birthday (1812) of Charles John Huffam Dickens, English writer and social critic. He created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and is regarded as one of the greatest novelists of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the 20th century critics and scholars had recognized him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories enjoy lasting popularity. Images from Dickens’ work pervade the modern world almost as much as those from the Bible or Shakespeare – such is his enduring legacy.

Dickens was born in Portsmouth and left school at the age of 12 to work in a boot blacking factory to help provide for the family when his father was incarcerated in Marshalsea debtors’ prison.This stint, though short, left an indelible impression on Dickens and colored his sensibilities about social justice for life. He wrote,“no words can express the secret agony of my soul as I sunk into the companionship of common men and boys.The deep remembrance of the sense I had of being utterly neglected and hopeless; of the shame I felt in my position; of the misery it was to my young heart to believe that, day by day, what I had learned, and thought, and delighted in…was passing away from me, never to be brought back, cannot be written”

cd5 cd4 cd6 cd7

Despite his lack of formal education, he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, lectured and performed extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer, and campaigned vigorously for children’s rights, education, and other social reforms.


Dickens’s literary success began with the 1836 serial publication of The Pickwick Papers. Within a few years he had become an international literary celebrity, famous for his humor, satire, and keen observation of character and society. His novels, most published in monthly or weekly installments, pioneered the serial publication of narrative fiction, which became the dominant Victorian mode for novel publishing. The installment format allowed Dickens to evaluate his audience’s reaction, and he often modified his plot and character development based on such feedback. For example, when his wife’s chiropodist expressed distress at the way Miss Mowcher in David Copperfield seemed to reflect her disabilities, Dickens improved the character with positive features. He also moderated some of his language in writing about Fagin in Oliver Twist after accusations of anti-Semitism. His plots were carefully constructed, and he often wove elements from topical events into his narratives. Masses of the illiterate poor chipped in ha’pennies to have each new monthly episode read to them, opening up and inspiring a new class of readers.

Here is a typical assessment of Dickens culled from Wikipedia:

Dickens was regarded as the literary colossus of his age. His 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol, remains popular and continues to inspire adaptations in every artistic genre. Oliver Twist and Great Expectations are also frequently adapted, and, like many of his novels, evoke images of early Victorian London. His 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities, set in London and Paris, is his best-known work of historical fiction. Dickens’s creative genius has been praised by fellow writers—from Leo Tolstoy to George Orwell and G. K. Chesterton—for its realism, comedy, prose style, unique characterisations, and social criticism. On the other hand, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, and Virginia Woolf complained of a lack of psychological depth, loose writing, and a vein of saccharine sentimentalism. The term Dickensian is used to describe something that is reminiscent of Dickens and his writings, such as poor social conditions or comically repulsive characters.

What can I say? Let me start with the critique. Wilde’s characterization, summarized in the remark, “You would need a heart of stone not to laugh at the death of Little Nell,” is nothing more than his own pompous and self-congratulatory cynicism. It can be dismissed without further comment. Woolf’s assessment is, by and large, unfairly anachronistic. She may have been overly taken with Freudian analysis, for example, but cannot fault Dickens for being unaware of psychoanalytic theory that was decades in the future. In fact, I would argue that he was the forerunner of a great deal of Freudian theory in that he posits with full vigor Wordsworth’s claim that “The Child is the father of the Man” in Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, Christmas Carol, and other works. What could be more both Freudian and Dickensian than the notion that childhood experience engenders adult personality?

Despite Dickens’ vehement opposition to child labor, slavery, and other social ills, I will accept that he often adopted views that now can be seen as racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic. But I am willing to cut him some slack here. First, he clearly moderated his anti-Semitism in the character of Fagin by later introducing the much more sympathetic Jew, Riah. Second, Dickens was a product of his age, and I don’t believe he can be entirely faulted for this. It is true that he was blind to the inherent ethnocentrism of Victorian imperialism, and was enamored of the “virtues” of the British middle class. This is to be expected. He lived in an era well before the advent of modern anthropology. How many Victorians would we have to consign to the dustbin of outmoded prejudice and narrow mindedness if we judged them solely by our current values? How will the world judge our oh-so-lofty morality 200 years hence?


Obviously in a short post of this nature I cannot cover the entire life and works of Dickens with any satisfaction. Let me simply turn to my favorite: A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas, commonly known simply as A Christmas Carol. I’ve loved this book since I first discovered it as a young teen, in the days when people still read for pleasure, and, in my world, television and assorted mass media were way in the future, so that back then I was not bombarded with an endless slew of schlock images and references. To me it was, and is, an enchanting and compelling tale. I have read it every Christmas since, and at one time I amassed a large collection of editions including a facsimile of the original manuscript, replete with Dickens’ own corrections and annotations.


Very few people now know two salient facts. First, telling ghost stories at Christmas was a common practice in Victorian times, so the book fits a genre of the times. Second, the book represents a novel (for the time) humanitarian vision of Christmas, rife with its condemnation of the ills of industrialism, social injustice, and class warfare, and hopes for a more “Christian” celebration. It is sadly ironic that Dickens’ desire for Christmas to become a joyous season of goodwill should have been corrupted into what we have today – a pathetic materialist frenzy, with Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit et. al., degenerating into hopelessly stereotyped and hackneyed caricatures of their former selves

I wonder how many people nowadays understand that the Cratchits’ goose was not intended as a symbol of largesse, but as an indication of their poverty? Goose was cheap food in those days, not the high-priced, high-class luxury it now is. If you’ve ever cooked one you’ll know that there is very little meat on even an ample goose (and Cratchit’s was far from large). After his reformation Scrooge sends Cratchit a turkey to make amends: the right bird in those days for a lavish, festive meal. I’ve always cooked a goose for Christmas, but at $40 a pop, or more, its status has changed completely. Now it’s turkey that is poor food (in the U.S. at least). That is to say, it is common, everyday poultry in comparison with goose, which is generally rare.


Perhaps surprisingly the phrase “Merry Christmas” was popularized following the appearance of the story, and the name “Scrooge” and exclamation “Bah! Humbug!” have entered the English language. But historians have argued that the book’s singular achievement is the powerful influence it has exerted upon its readers over the years. In the spring of 1844, The Gentleman’s Magazine attributed a sudden burst of charitable giving in Britain to Dickens’ novella; in 1874, Robert Louis Stevenson waxed enthusiastic after reading Dickens’s Christmas books and vowed to give generously; and Thomas Carlyle expressed a generous hospitality by staging two Christmas dinners after reading the book. In the United States, a Mr. Fairbanks attended a reading on Christmas Eve in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1867, and was so moved he closed his factory on Christmas Day and sent every employee a turkey. In the early years of the 20th century, the Queen of Norway sent gifts to London’s crippled children signed “With Tiny Tim’s Love”; Squire Bancroft raised £20,000 for the poor by reading the tale aloud publicly; and Captain Corbett-Smith read the tale to the troops in the trenches of World War I.

According to my sometime colleague, historian Ronald Hutton, the current state of observance of Christmas is largely the result of a mid-Victorian revival of the holiday spearheaded by A Christmas Carol. He writes that Dickens “linked worship and feasting, within a context of social reconciliation”. In advocating a humanitarian focus for the holiday, Dickens influenced many aspects of Christmas that are celebrated today in Western culture, such as family gatherings, seasonal food and drink, dancing, games and a festive generosity of spirit. With the appearance of the Oxford Movement and the growth of Anglo-Catholicism, a revival in the traditional rituals and religious observances associated with Christmastide also occurred.

This simple morality tale with its pathos and theme of redemption significantly redefined the “spirit” and importance of Christmas, since, as Margaret Oliphant recalled, it “moved us all those days ago as if it had been a new gospel.” The tale helped resurrect a form of seasonal merriment that had been suppressed by the Puritan quelling of Yuletide pageantry in 17th-century England.

A Christmas Carol has been adapted numerous times for stage and screen, almost since its first appearance as a book, with varying degrees of success and fidelity to the original tale. Here’s a gallery of images of a few of my favorites adaptations, some straight re-tellings, some indirect homages. Carol Kane’s ditzy portrayal of the Ghost of Christmas Present in Bill Murray’s Scrooged (1988) tickles me senseless.

cd14 cd13 cd12 cd11 cd18 cd17

One of Dickens’ favorite dishes was baked apples. Among other things he swore by their ability to prevent seasickness. He became a baked apple convert while sailing to Boston in 1867. They were served at every meal during the Atlantic crossing, and he always helped himself to plenty. “I am confident that they did wonders, not only at the time, but in stopping the imaginary pitching and rolling after the voyage is over,” he wrote to his sister-in-law, Georgina Hogarth.

Here’s the stalwart Victorian Isabella Beeton’s recipe for baked apples in a suet crust that is both simple and delightful, along with her usual inimitable comments.


BAKED APPLE DUMPLINGS (a Plain Family Dish).

  1. INGREDIENTS.—6 apples, 3/4 lb.. of suet-crust No. 1215, sugar to taste.

Mode.—Pare and take out the cores of the apples without dividing them, and make 1/2 lb. of suet-crust by recipe No. 1215; roll the apples in the crust, previously sweetening them with moist sugar, and taking care to join the paste nicely. When they are formed into round balls, put them on a tin, and bake them for about 1/2 hour, or longer should the apples be very large; arrange them pyramidically on a dish, and sift over them some pounded white sugar. These may be made richer by using one of the puff-pastes instead of suet.

Time.—From 1/2 to 3/4 hour, or longer. Average cost, 1-1/2d. each.

Sufficient for 4 persons.

Seasonable from August to March, but flavourless after the end of January.

USES OF THE APPLE.—It is well known that this fruit forms a very important article of food, in the form of pies and puddings, and furnishes several delicacies, such as sauces, marmalades, and jellies, and is much esteemed as a dessert fruit. When flattened in the form of round cakes, and baked in ovens, they are called beefings; and large quantities are annually dried in the sun in America, as well as in Normandy, and stored for use during winter, when they may be stewed or made into pies. In a roasted state they are remarkably wholesome, and, it is said, strengthening to a weak stomach. In putrid and malignant fevers, when used with the juice of lemons and currants, they are considered highly efficacious.


SUET CRUST, for Pies or Puddings.

  1. INGREDIENTS.—To every lb. of flour allow 5 or 6 oz. of beef suet, 1/2 pint of water.

Mode.—Free the suet from skin and shreds; chop it extremely fine, and rub it well into the flour; work the whole to a smooth paste with the above proportion of water; roll it out, and it is ready for use. This crust is quite rich enough for ordinary purposes, but when a better one is desired, use from 1/2 to 3/4 lb. of suet to every lb. of flour. Some cooks, for rich crusts, pound the suet in a mortar, with a small quantity of butter. It should then be laid on the paste in small pieces, the same as for puff-crust, and will be found exceedingly nice for hot tarts. 5 oz. of suet to every lb. of flour will make a very good crust; and even 1/4 lb. will answer very well for children, or where the crust is wanted very plain.

Jan 252016


Today is the birthday (1882) of Adeline Virginia Woolf (née Stephen), an English writer who was one of the foremost modernists of the early 20th century. During the interwar period, Woolf was a significant figure in London literary society and a central figure in the influential Bloomsbury Group. Her most famous works include the novels Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando (1928), and the book-length essay A Room of One’s Own (1929), with its famous dictum, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

Woolf was educated by her parents in their literate and well-connected household. Her parents had each been married previously and been widowed, and, consequently, the household contained the children of three marriages. Her mother, Julia, had three children by her first husband, Herbert Duckworth: George, Stella, and Gerald Duckworth. Her father, Leslie Stephen, had first married Harriet Marian (Minny) Thackeray (1840–1875), the daughter of William Thackeray, and they had one daughter: Laura Makepeace Stephen, who was declared mentally disabled and lived with the family until she was institutionalized in 1891. Leslie and Julia had four children together: Vanessa (later known as Vanessa Bell) (1879), Thoby (1880), Virginia (1882), and Adrian (1883).


Leslie Stephen’s eminence as an editor, critic, and biographer, and his connection to William Thackeray, meant that his children were raised in an environment filled with the influences of Victorian literary society. Henry James, George Henry Lewes, and Virginia’s honorary godfather, James Russell Lowell, were among the visitors to the house. Julia Stephen was equally well connected. She came from a family of beauties who left their mark on Victorian society as models for Pre-Raphaelite artists and early photographers, including her aunt Julia Margaret Cameron who was also a visitor to the Stephen household. Supplementing these influences was the immense library at the Stephens’ house, from which Virginia and Vanessa were taught the classics and English literature. Unlike the girls, their brothers Adrian and Julian (Thoby) were formally educated and sent to Cambridge, a difference that Virginia would resent. The sisters did, however, benefit indirectly from their brothers’ Cambridge contacts, as the boys often brought their new intellectual friends home.

According to Woolf’s memoirs, her most vivid childhood memories were not of London but of St Ives, Cornwall, where the family spent every summer until 1895. The Stephens’ summer home, Talland House, looked out over Porthminster Bay, and is still standing, though somewhat altered. Memories of these family holidays and impressions of the landscape, especially the Godrevy Lighthouse, informed the fiction Woolf wrote in later years, most notably To the Lighthouse.

The sudden death of her mother in 1895, when Virginia was 13, and that of her half-sister Stella two years later, led to the first of Virginia’s several nervous breakdowns. She was, however, able to take courses of study (some at degree level) in Ancient Greek, Latin, German and history at the Ladies’ Department of King’s College London between 1897 and 1901. This brought her into contact with some of the early reformers of women’s higher education such as the principal of the Ladies’ Department, Lilian Faithfull (one of the so-called Steamboat ladies), Clara Pater (sister of the more famous Walter, George Warr. Her sister Vanessa also studied Latin, Italian, art and architecture at King’s Ladies’ Department.


The death of her father in 1904 provoked a serious mental crisis and she was briefly institutionalized. Modern scholars (including her nephew and biographer, Quentin Bell) have suggested her breakdowns and subsequent recurring depressive periods were influenced by the sexual abuse to which she and her sister Vanessa were subjected by their half-brothers George and Gerald Duckworth (which Woolf recalls in her autobiographical essays A Sketch of the Past and 22 Hyde Park Gate).

Throughout her life, Woolf was plagued by periodic mood swings and associated illnesses. She spent three short periods in 1910, 1912 and 1913 at Burley House, 15 Cambridge Park, Twickenham, described as “a private nursing home for women with nervous disorder.” Though this instability often affected her social life, her literary productivity continued with few breaks throughout her life.

After the death of their father and Virginia’s second nervous breakdown, Vanessa and Adrian sold 22 Hyde Park Gate and bought a house at 46 Gordon Square in Bloomsbury. Woolf came to know Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, Rupert Brooke, Saxon Sydney-Turner, Duncan Grant, Leonard Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, David Garnett, and Roger Fry, who together formed the nucleus of the intellectual circle of writers and artists known as the Bloomsbury Group. In 1907 Vanessa married Clive Bell, and the couple’s interest in modern art had an important influence on Woolf’s development as an author.


Virginia married the writer Leonard Woolf on 10 August 1912. Despite his low material status (Woolf referring to Leonard during their engagement as a “penniless Jew”) the couple shared a close bond. She wrote at the time:

First he is a Jew; second he is 31; third, he spent 7 years in Ceylon, governing natives, inventing ploughs, shooting tigers, and did so well that they offered him a very high place, which he refused, wishing to marry me, and gave up his entire career there on the chance that I would agree. He has no money of his own… but from the first I have found him the one person to talk to.

We analyse each other’s idiosyncrasies in the light of psycho-analysis walking round the square. My reports, however, are apt to twist up into balls what is really amicable, serious, disinterested, and almost wholly affectionate. It’s true that Leonard sees my faults.

The two also collaborated professionally, in 1917 founding the Hogarth Press, which subsequently published Virginia’s novels along with works by T. S. Eliot, Laurens van der Post, and translations of Freud’s works. The Press also commissioned works by contemporary artists, including Dora Carrington and Vanessa Bell.

Vita Sackville-West

Vita Sackville-West

The ethos of the Bloomsbury group encouraged a liberal approach to sexuality, and in 1922 Virginia met the writer and landscape gardener Vita Sackville-West, wife of Harold Nicolson. After a tentative start, they began a sexual relationship, which, according to Sackville-West in a letter to her husband dated August 17, 1926, was only twice consummated. However, Virginia’s intimacy with Vita seems to have continued into the early 1930s. In 1928, Woolf presented Sackville-West with Orlando, a fantastical biography in which the eponymous hero’s life spans three centuries and both sexes. Nigel Nicolson, Vita Sackville-West’s son, wrote, “The effect of Vita on Virginia is all contained in Orlando, the longest and most charming love letter in literature, in which she explores Vita, weaves her in and out of the centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, plays with her, dresses her in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist around her.”

Woolf began writing professionally in 1900, initially for the Times Literary Supplement with a journalistic piece about Haworth, home of the Brontë family. Her first novel, The Voyage Out, was published in 1915 by her half-brother’s imprint, Gerald Duckworth and Company Ltd. Woolf went on to publish novels and essays to both critical and popular success. Much of her work was self-published through the Hogarth Press, because she struggled dealing with external criticism and rejection.

Virginia Woolf

Woolf is considered a major innovator in the English language. In her works she experimented with stream of consciousness and the underlying psychological as well as emotional motives of characters. Woolf’s reputation declined sharply after World War II, but her importance was re-established with the growth of feminist criticism in the 1970s.

Here’s the only known recording of Woolf talking about the art of writing and language:

I taught Woolf for about 10 years as part of a general course for freshmen. To The Lighthouse was required reading for all first year students in the spring semester. I never felt I could do much with the text for a whole host of reasons. The Freudian/Oedipal theme between James and Mr Ramsay that runs through the entire novel seems heavy handed nowadays, although when the book was first published I expect it was novel and engaging.

I do grasp the idea that by using a stream-of-consciousness writing style Woolf was trying to paint a picture of what a day in the life of the Ramsays and entourage in their summer house was like, and I find it well enough done for what it is. Obviously the whole scene is heavily autobiographical; Woolf could well be describing a summer in St Ives with her family and their glitterati friends in the 1920s. The reason I find it well enough done is that I find the writing about the events as tiresome as I would have found the events themselves. Sitting around day after day reading or discussing “good” literature with a bunch of rich and “important” people, would drive me up the wall.


Therein lies the heart of the problem for me. Woolf was brought up in, and lived among, the privileged of England’s society. Their interests and problems are not mine. I am, however, sympathetic to Woolf’s mental illness. People very close to me have suffered from depression and bipolar disorder, so I know the details intimately. Just before she weighted herself down with stones and drowned herself in the River Ouse she wrote this gut-wrenching note to Leonard:


I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer.

I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.

These sentiments are soul searing. Trying to convey their meaning to 18 year olds in New York in the 1980s was impossible.


The final chapters of the first part of To the Lighthouse describe a formal dinner party which Mrs Ramsay hosts. The soup course is of particular concern for many reasons. The full text of the book is here if you want to delve the mysteries of Mrs Ramsay and her ladling of the soup: There is no mention of what kind of soup it is, nor any other details about the meal, only that the soup was worth seconds for one guest – and that caused a stir. So here’s a soup that was popular at the time, Royal Cheddar Cheese Soup.


Royal Cheddar Cheese Soup


1 tablespoon butter
2 yellow onions, peeled and chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
6 cups chicken stock
½ tsp dry English mustard
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ tsp hot pepper sauce
3 tbsp minced chives


Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy pan. Add the onions, potatoes, and garlic and sauté 10 minutes.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 20 minutes.

Using a food processor or blender purée the stock and vegetables .

Whisk together the dry mustard and heavy cream in the pan over medium heat. Then add back the purée and heat through, stirring to avoid sticking.

Stir in the cheese and hot sauce and keep stirring until the cheese has melted.

Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with some chives.

Jul 262015


Today is the birthday of Carl Gustav Jung (1875), often referred to as C. G. Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who founded analytical psychology. His work has been influential not only in psychiatry but also in philosophy, anthropology, archaeology, literature, and religious studies. He was a prolific writer, though many of his works were not published until after his death. Jung created some of the best known psychological concepts, including the archetype, the collective unconscious, the complex, and extraversion and introversion.

Jung was a solitary and introverted child. From childhood he believed that, like his mother (who had a day and a night persona which were radically different), he had two personalities—a modern Swiss citizen and a personality more suited to the eighteenth century. “Personality Number 1,” as he termed it, was a typical schoolboy living in the era of the time. “Personality Number 2″ was a dignified, authoritative and influential man from the past.  Do you begin to see why I like the man but am a bit suspicious of him?

A number of childhood memories made lifelong impressions on him. As a boy he carved a tiny mannequin into the end of the wooden ruler from his pencil case and placed it inside the case. He added a stone which he had painted into upper and lower halves, and hid the case in the attic. Periodically he would return to the mannequin, often bringing tiny sheets of paper with messages inscribed on them in his own secret language. He later reflected that this ceremonial act brought him a feeling of inner peace and security. Years later he discovered similarities between his personal experience and the practices associated with totems in indigenous cultures, such as the collection of soul-stones near Arlesheim or the tjurungas of Australia. He concluded that his intuitive ceremonial act was an unconscious ritual, which he had practiced in a way that was strikingly similar to those in distant locations which he, as a young boy, knew nothing about. His conclusions about symbols, psychological archetypes, and the collective unconscious were inspired, in part, by these experiences. Whilst I greatly admire people who have been weirdos from birth, I am skeptical of the utility of their ideas.

At the age of twelve, shortly before the end of his first year at the Humanistisches Gymnasium in Basel, Jung was pushed to the ground by another boy so hard that he momentarily lost consciousness. A thought then came to him—”now you won’t have to go to school any more.” From then on, whenever he walked to school or began homework, he fainted. He remained at home for the next six months until he overheard his father speaking hurriedly to a visitor about the boy’s future ability to support himself. They suspected he had epilepsy. Confronted with the reality of his family’s limited means, he realized the need for academic excellence. He went into his father’s study and began poring over Latin grammar. He fainted three more times but eventually overcame the urge and did not faint again. This event, Jung later recalled, “was when I learned what a neurosis is.”


Jung did not plan to study psychiatry since it was not considered prestigious at the time. But, studying a psychiatric textbook, he became very excited when he discovered that psychoses are personality diseases. His interest was immediately captured—it combined the biological and the spiritual, exactly what he was searching for. In 1895 Jung studied medicine at the University of Basel.

In 1900 Jung began working at the Burghölzli psychiatric hospital in Zürich with Eugen Bleuler. Bleuler was already in communication with the Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Jung’s dissertation, published in 1903, was titled On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena. In 1906 he published Studies in Word Association, and later sent a copy of this book to Freud.

Eventually a close friendship and a strong professional association developed between the elder Freud and Jung, which left a sizeable correspondence. For six years they cooperated in their work. In 1912, however, Jung published Wandlungen und Symbole der Libido (known in English as Psychology of the Unconscious), which made manifest the developing theoretical divergence between the two. Consequently, their personal and professional relationship fractured—each stating that the other was unable to admit he could possibly be wrong. After the culminating break in 1913, Jung went through a difficult and pivotal psychological transformation, exacerbated by the outbreak of the First World War. Henri Ellenberger called Jung’s intense experience a “creative illness” and compared it favorably to Freud’s own period of what he called neurasthenia and hysteria.


What I find troubling and unhelpful about both Freud’s and Jung’s theorizing is an aggrandizing tendency on both their parts to turn personal experience into universal experience – “if I have felt it, everyone must feel it.” I hypothesize that this is whence Jung’s concept of the archetype derives. Always being honest up front, I will readily admit that I find the notion of the archetype to be vague, ethnocentric, and ultimately misleading and worthless.

In Jungian psychology, archetypes are highly developed elements of the collective unconscious. Being unconscious, the existence of archetypes can only be deduced indirectly by examining behavior, images, art, myths, religions, or dreams. Carl Jung thought of archetypes as universal, archaic patterns and images that derive from the collective unconscious and are the psychic counterpart of instinct. They are inherited potentials which are actualized when they enter consciousness as images or manifest in behavior on interaction with the outside world. They are autonomous and hidden forms which are transformed once they enter consciousness and are given particular expression by individuals and their cultures. There is obviously something mystical about the idea of archetypes – pre-existing ideas that we are somehow born with (the exact opposite of the notion of “the blank slate”). Here we have the “nature vs nurture” debate yet again with Jung lying somewhere in the middle. I am sympathetic to this middle ground in general but not to Jung’s way in particular.

Jung described archetypal events: birth, death, separation from parents, initiation, marriage, the union of opposites; archetypal figures: great mother, father, child, devil, god, wise old man, wise old woman, the trickster, the hero; and archetypal motifs: the apocalypse, the deluge, the creation. Although the number of archetypes is limitless, there are a few particularly notable, recurring archetypal images, “the chief among them being” (according to Jung) “the shadow, the wise old man, the child, the mother … and her counterpart, the maiden, and lastly the anima in man and the animus in woman”.


Jung, in exploring these types, is in line with 19th century anthropologists such as James George Frazer who wanted to universalize the particulars of all cultures, a tendency that found modern expression in the works of Joseph Campbell. I do recognize that Jung distinguished between the inchoate, primordial archetype and its actualization in the physical world. But there is no denying that purported archetypes, such as the hero, tend to become rigid and doctrinaire. Jung himself was confused and confusing on this point, and his disciples more so. You can see “the dragon” everywhere if you want to – dragon images exist in all cultures. But there is a world of difference between the Medieval European dragon and the ancient Chinese one, the former being malevolent and the latter benevolent. Of course you can argue that these two opposing images are surface manifestations of opposing archetypes, but then you just descend into a muddled realm of “everything is everything.”

The archetypes I find most troublesome are masculine and feminine. There is no need to resort to mystical primitivism to tease these out; they are common, everyday experiences. Archetypal thinking has a habit of essentializing these qualities in unhelpful and potentially harmful ways. People speak, therefore, of their “masculine side” and their “feminine side.” Why do that? Why not just talk about being kind, loving, caring, cruel, domineering, or what have you? Why codify and classify these qualities as masculine or feminine, and why universalize them? They are simply human qualities. Classifying in this way seems a tad 19th century Germanic to me. Try learning Chinese count words if you need convincing that different cultures classify in different ways: (“things that are flat and useful,” such as bus tickets and dining tables, or “things that are segmented,” such as bamboo and trains).


Jungians sometimes ask questions such as “what is your favorite color?” or “what is your favorite food?” and then “why?” as a way of probing the archetypal meaning(s) of our experiences. OK. I’m game. I thought about this for a while and came up with cock-a-leekie soup as my favorite dish. Actually I find such a question a bit fatuous. But you can distill it down to something like “what would you like for your last meal?” Cock-a-leekie resonates with me on many levels. I note in reviewing past posts that I’ve often mentioned cock-a-leekie but have never actually given a recipe. Time to change that.

My father, a Scot, was fond of making cock-a-leekie especially at Christmas time, and I learnt how to make it from him (principally by watching). So, it speaks to me of FATHERS AND SONS, FAMILY, and TRADITION. I always make it on Christmas Eve now in memory of the times when my sisters and their families gathered at our house. It is WARM, and COMFORTING. I always feel happy when I sit down to a bowl. It is VERSATILE. I always make gallons at a time and use the broth later as a basis for gravies and stews. It is SIMPLE: simple to make and simple in flavors. It is NOURISHING. You’ve just got to have crusty bread with it, homemade if possible (fresh from the oven), but cock-a-leekie is a complete meal all by itself.

I’ve looked at a ton of recipes in my time (some insisting that prunes are a traditional and essential ingredient – ugh) but they all come down to an archetype.


©Cock-a-Leekie Soup

You’ll need your biggest stock pot. Put a medium sized chicken (3-4 lbs) in and cover with chicken stock. Bring gently to a simmer whilst adding coarsely chopped onions, the tender green parts of several leeks chopped, a handful of chopped fresh parsley, and lashings of freshly ground black pepper (absolutely critical). Skim the scum from the top as it rises, then partly cover and simmer for about an hour (or until the meat is tender but not boiled to death – you want the meat juicy).

Remove the chicken from the broth and set it aside to cool a little before stripping the meat from the bones and cutting in bite sized chunks.

Keep the broth on a simmer and add in the white part of the leeks cut into thick rounds. Let the leeks poach until they are al dente, then add back in the chicken to thoroughly warm through, plus an extra handful of chopped parsley and more black pepper.

Serve piping hot in deep bowls with crusty bread.