Carl Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist whose ideas about the human unconscious had a profound effect on literature, art, and philosophy. While he was a longtime corresponder and collaborator with Sigmund Freud, Jung eventually departed from traditional psychoanalysis to explore and document his own unique vision of the human mind, spirit, and personality. Among his offerings to modern psychology include the concepts of the collective unconscious, introversion/extraversion, the persona (inspiration for the famous Ingmar Bergmann film of the same name) and psychological individuation. He also had a marked influence on American counterculture, earning him a cameo on the cover of the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band next to Villager Edgar Allen Poe. Jung’s understanding of the human condition was in large part shaped by his travels, which brought him from his birthplace of Switzerland to England, Kenya, Uganda, and even Taos, New Mexico. But he also made a brief but particularly meaningful sojourn to Greenwich Village.
Jung was initiated into to the Village’s radical and creative milieu by the feminist, psychoanalyst, writer, and translator Beatrice M. Hinkle (1874-1953). Hinkle hailed from California, where, as the San Francisco city physician, she made history as the first woman physician in the country to hold a public health position. In 1908, in New York, she accomplished another milestone: the establishment of the country’s first therapeutic clinic at Cornell Medical School. A former devotee of Freud (she had gone to Vienna to study with him for a number of years), Hinkle had become frustrated with what she deemed Freud’s rigid approach to sexuality, and his disregard for womens’ autonomy. She sought a theory of psychoanalysis that embraced the politics of feminism and sexual liberation so popular among the ‘new women’ of the Village. Finding a more liberated perspective in Carl Jung’s work, Hinkle made it her mission to spread Jungian thought throughout the United States. Her translation from German to English of Jung’s Transformation and Symbols of the Libido (or Psychology of the Unconscious, as she named it) had an enormous influence on the culture and creativity of the broader Village community.
In 1912 Hinkle and Jung met in person, when Jung came to Manhattan to give a lecture at Fordham University. She brought him to a dinner at the bohemian enclave of Patchin Place, where the Village’s new women congregated (among them lesbian novelist Djuna Barnes and Louise Bryant, feminist author and lover of the noted radical John Reed). Of Patchin Place, the historian Christine Stansell wrote: “There was a supper club for free-speech conversation in Patchin Place, where the brilliant political essayist Randolph Bourne joined feminist friends one night to hear Carl Jung describe his dream psychology.” Jung’s ideas were well received in this “excited collective life that spilled over from one apartment to the next.”
Many of the women dining that night at Patchin Place were members of a group called the Liberal Club (located below Polly Holiday’s restaurant 133-139 McDougal Street), who were well-known for transgression and radical ideas — notably, in 1917, its members climbed to the top of the Washington Arch and declared Greenwich Village an independent republic. According to Stansell, the Liberal Club “blossomed with conviviality, come-hither socialibility, emancipated talk, and liberated sex. The clientele included young women from the heartland who had fled their families, Jewish socialists, left-leaning lawyers…” A faction of the group had split off from the original Club, after the leadership of the former had vetoed the appearances of Emma Goldman and WEB DuBois. The more radical members established a new outpost on MacDougal Street (the original club had been in Gramercy Park) where they welcomed radicals and free thinkers of all stripes. Hinkle, also a member of the Liberal Club, invited Jung to speak.
The author Jay Sherry points out, in The Jungian Strand in Transatlantic Modernism, that many of Jung’s ideas on dreams — the subject of this lecture — resonated with the political culture of the Liberal Club and of the Village as a whole. Jung wrote that psychoanalysis, of which dream analysis was a large part, should be “constructive rather than reductive in its approach by helping the patient build a bridge to the future.” This philosophy dovetailed with the ideals of the progressive movement at its “high-water mark,” with Socialist candidate Eugene V. Debs receiving 6% of the vote in the 1912 presidential election. Jung indeed stated that he saw psychoanalysis as “highly creditable to the liberal and progressive spirit of America.”
The relationship between Greenwich Village’s avant-garde and the ideas of psychoanalysis took the stage in plays written by Villagers from the Liberal Club and its environs. As Stansell writes of the Club, “this bohemia was in-dwelling and self-dramatizing — literally so.” Playwright and Club member Susan Gaspell collaborated with the writer George Cram Cook to produce a drama called Suppressed Desires, which satirized the current craze for psychoanalysis. The play’s main character, Henrietta, living in a studio apartment in Washington Square South, is obsessed with over-analyzing the dreams of her husband, Stephen, and her sister, Mabel.
Suppressed Desires was first performed in Provincetown, the arts colony on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where many Villagers, including many in the Liberal Club, spent their summers. It was ad-hoc and mainly improvised, but enormously successful. After its debut, the writers and actors involved sought a more permanent home for their theatrics. The journalist and labor activist Mary Heaton Vorse, who owned a fisherman’s wharf in Provincetown, transformed it into a theater which became known as the Provincetown Playhouse. It would later coalesce into the enormously successful theater of the same name at 139 MacDougal Street.
Back in the Village, the Playhouse staged a play called Bound East for Cardiff, by the then-unknown Eugene O’Neill, on November 3, 1916. It’s likely, Sherry writes, that O’Neill had read Hinkle’s translation of Psychology of the Unconscious that summer, as the book had “made the rounds in Provincetown.” O’Neill later said, “The book that interested me the most of the Freudian school is Jung’s Psychology of the Unconscious… if I have been influenced unconsciously it must have been by this book more than any other.” Bound East, like many of O’Neill’s early plays, concerns the life of sailors on and off the ocean, juxtaposing the often bawdy aspects of maritime life — brawls, flirtations — with larger psychological themes of longing and eternity.
Carl Jung seems to have opened new vistas of creative and political thought in the collective life of the VIllage. He was memorialized in a charcoal drawing by the noted Lebanese-American poet and visual artist Khalil Gibran, whose studio Jung visited on his 1912 trip. In an op-ed in left-wing political journal The Masses, Max Eastman (brother of Crystal Eastman, one of the founders of the ACLU) wrote that Jung was “the clearest, sanest, and wisest” of the psychoanalytic writers. And as the novelist and social activist Jack London put it so movingly, Hinkle’s translation of Jung left him with the feeling of “standing on the edge of a world so new, so terrible, so wonderful that I am almost afraid to look over into it.”
To learn more about Carl Jung’s interactions with the people and places of Greenwich Village, click here to watch the lecture “Faint Voices from Greenwich Village: Carl Jung’s Visit to the Village,” with the historian Jay Sherry from Village Preservation’s program archives.
For more information about the radical topography of the Village, including sites like the Provincetown Playhouse and the Liberal Club, check out our Civil Rights and Social Justice Map.