International Journal of Jungian Studies: Kevin Lu’s review of Gottfried Heuer’s new book

Kevin Lu, PhD, director of several programs at the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex, reviews Freud’s ‘Outstanding’ Colleague/Jung’s ‘Twin Brother’ in the June 2017 edition of the International Journal of Jungian Studies.

Freud’s ‘Outstanding’ Colleague/Jung’s ‘Twin Brother’: the suppressed psychoanalytic and political significance of Otto Gross, by Gottfried M. Heuer, Abingdon, Routledge, 2017, 252 pp., £31.99 (paperback), ISBN: 9781138899698

Stated simply, this book is about Otto Gross and reclaiming his place as one of the most innovate and creative minds within the psychoanalytic movement. Of particular interest for Jungian scholarly studies is Heuers exploration of the extent to which Gross influenced Jung and his ideas (Heuer, 2017, p. 58). We learn more about the failed mutual analysis between the two pioneers, the underlying intention of Jung’s mistaken diagnosis of Gross when he was a patient at the Burgholzli, his unacknowledged impact on depth psychology and the lengths to which many have gone to minimize his contribution. Gross has been written out of the field’s history and Heuer’s text is a corrective to this maltreatment. Yet the book is, in many ways, so much more than this. Included in the analysis is a moving exploration of the author’s own subjectivity, one rarely seen in academic publications. Heuer not only delineates his path to Gross and the numinosity that pulled him towards a lifetime of scholarly attention to Gross’s work, but argues that such subjectivity is crucial to what he has termed a trans-historical approach. Describing his methodology, he writes:

This is a trans-temporal, trans-generational and trans-personal approach to the past as an intersubjective web of ideas and concepts centring on Gross and my being in relationship with him […] My research arcs backwards to the past with the intention to contribute to healing present and future. This orientation equalizes meaning and fact and contains a redemptive and numinous dimension — numinous in the sense in which intimate interrelating, conditional for healing, invokes the presence of the holy. (Heuer, 2017, p. 3)

Archival research, clinical knowledge, active imagination, psychobiography and dream interpretation coalesce to inform a truly unique perspective to understanding both Gross’s personal life and theoretical contribution. Undertaking work ‘trans-historically’ means an active engagement with reality and psychic reality as manifested in the past, present and future. It defies a narrative based on chronological sequence and ‘implies an a-temporal dimension in which [past, present and future] coincide, and which is patterned by meaning’ (Heuer, 2017, p. 9). Not only does the ethos of Heuer’s approach reflect Gross’s own values and ideas, but it is inspired by the ‘reconciliatory justice as practised by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ (Heuer, 2017, p. 9). By bringing to light transgressions of the past, all are invited (including perpetrators, victims and the reader) to participate in a process where ‘wounded history’ may be healed. ‘In bringing to light and clarifying discarded history’, Heuer writes, ‘I envisage a retroactive healing effect which releases all figures involved in traumatic and traumatizing history’ (2017, p. 22). Such an approach displays how depth psychological perspectives – which are at the heart of Heuer’s method – may contribute to uncovering unexplored assumptions within the discipline of history itself. It provides, moreover, a theoretical framework with which historians may illustrate and explore their own subjectivity (Lu, 2012). But a trans-historical perspective moves beyond both interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity by contributing to the larger notion of transdisciplinarity, which is gaining greater purchase within Jungian Studies (Rowland, 2015; Tympas, 2014). Rowland defines transdisciplinarity as ‘[honouring] the varying ontologies or ideas of being enshrined in different disciplines by positing an epistemology, a way of knowing and justifying knowing, that includes multiple levels of reality experienced by the human subject’ (Rowland, 2015, p. 170).

Heuer’s mobilization of different ways of working with texts – with the aim of healing a past and recuperating Gross’s place within psychoanalytic studies – is surely palpable in his close analysis of Gross’s relationship with Jung. Initially, both Freud and Jung praised (for the most part) Gross and the promising contribution he would make to psychoanalysis. In May 1908, Freud referred Gross to Jung for treatment for the ‘withdrawal from opium and cocaine’ (Freud, quoted in Heuer, 2017, p. 75). During their first encounter (Gross was under Jung’s care most probably twice), the two men engaged in mutual analysis. The analysis ultimately failed, and led to Jung’s damning labelling of Gross as suffering from dementia praecox. What Heuer has done exceptionally well is to trace the underlying consequences and inten­tions behind such a diagnosis, while offering tentative, psychological explanations regarding Jung’s motivations for doing so. Hans Gross, Otto’s father, was instrumental in influencing Jung’s diagnosis, which many of Jung’s contemporaries questioned, including Bleuler and Freud (Heuer, 2017, p. 80). As Otto’s lifestyle was disagreeable to his father, he sought any means necessary – including legal proceedings – to limit his son’s autonomy by gaining guar­dianship over him (Heuer, 2017, p. 81). Jung’s diagnosis was crucial in supporting Hans Gross’s cause, and Otto never regained full citizen’s rights (Heuer , 2017, p. 82). Heuer not only asserts that Jung had pre-determined Gross’s condition even before the analysis had begun (Heuer, 2017, p. 75), but rightly questions the diagnosis itself, given Gross’s ability to analyse Jung in return. Such competence does not reflect one truly suffering from dementia praecox (Heuer, 2017, p. 77).

Heuer goes on to provide a measured and plausible psychological explanation underpin­ ning Jung ‘s diagnos i s and oscillating sentiments towards Gross. Not only was Jung under the scrutiny of Freud and Bleuler throughout the treatment (Heuer, 2017, p. 78), but both Jung and Gross were ultimately competing against one another for the love of the father (Freud). As both Jung and Gross were held in high esteem at the time (with Freud referring to Gross as the only other person able to make an original contribution to psychoanalysis other than Jung), Jung’s ruinous diagnosis of his ‘twin brother’ amounts to nothing less than a psychological form of murder. ‘Jung’s misdiagnosis and subsequent attempts to write Gross out of history’, Heuer asserts, ‘might thus also be seen as having an aspect of fratricide, so that he, Jung, can remain “the first-born,” to use the biblical metaphor’ (Heuer, 2017, p. 85). Jung is, indeed, named the heir apparent for a time, before his own misgivings about Freud take further shape. In later life, Jung relativizes his diagnosis of Gross as suffering from dementia praecoxWriting to Fritz Wittels, Jung tempers his overall negative estimation of Gross with the following:

I must, however, complete my very negative description after all insofar as amid all the sick entanglement that he developed, every now and then there would be a sort of flashes of bril­liancy which is why I tried to do my best for him during his stay at the institution, albeit without any success whatsoever. (Jung quoted in Heuer, 2017, p. 85)

Once more, Heuer tentatively surmises on the possible, psychological intention behind Jung’s actions. He writes:

Might the palpable anger in Jung’s concluding statements [… ] in this letter[…] also be fuelled by semi-conscious guilt feelings? Can it be understood, in part, as the unforgiving resentment of the perpetrator towards the victim he knows he has wronged? None of the other psychia­trists or analysts who assessed and/or treated Gross, were as condemning in their diagnosis and gloomy in their prognosis of future development as Jung was. (Heuer, 2017, p. 85)

In assessing Gross’s influence on Jung’s ideas, the degree to which the latter borrowed from the former becomes evident. Key Jungian concepts including individuation and synchronicityas well as Jung’s understanding of the unus mundus, the transference/countertransference and the relationship between individual and collective, are shown to have been anticipated by Gross. Even Jung’s emotional and sexual relations with women seems to have been inspired by Gross’s lifestyle (Heuer, 2017, p. 91). While Jung acknowledged Gross’s input to the formulation of psychological types, his contribution to Jung’s early ideas on the topic of the father evidence the process through which Gross has been written out of the historical record. Their mutual analysis in 1908 informed Jung’s 1909 paper, ‘The significance of the father in the destiny of the individual.’ While Gross’s contribution was still noted in the 1927 edition, this acknowledgement is omitted in the 1948 edition. For Heuer, this amounts to nothing less than damnatio memoriae (Heuer, 2017, p. 92). More alarmingly, the full extent of Gross’s contribution to our understanding of schizophrenia remains unacknowledged. Writing to Freud in 1911, Gross urged him to publish his paper, ‘In my own cause: Concerning the so-called Bleuler-Jung School.’ In addition to accusing Jung of publishing statements Gross made to him in the course of analysis, Gross accuses Bleuler of stealing the term dementia sejunctiva from him (the original Latin term which was translated into the Greek – schizophrenia – by Bleuler). Although Bleuler acknowledged Gross’s contribution to dementia praecox, his conception of the disorder as a form of splitting has remained unidentified.

Heuer’s book also serves as an informative and scholarly introduction to Gross’s life, ideas and politics. The developmental trajectory of his ideas ranged from the purely medical to a ‘radically psycho-political orientation’ (Heuer, 2017, p. 60) that was the hallmark of his later thinking. He emphasized the importance of relationships, mutuality and dialectic intersubjectivity, moving from the will to power to the will to relating. In this regard, he may be considered a founding father of the relational turn in psychoanalysis. He sought to bring together the personal and collective, the political and religious. For him, the personal is the political (Heuer, 2017, p. 29); individual suffering is inseparable from the suffering of all humanity (p. 58). Gross’s interest in the body-mind connection precedes Wilhelm Reich, and his more open and positive assessment of pathology foreshadows the Anti-Psychiatry of R. D. Laing. Perhaps most importantly, Gross considered psychoanalysis a tool through which a countercul­ tural revolution may be achieved. Only a change internally – a shifting of the authoritarian and patriarchal structures within – can effect lasting political change in society.

What is refreshing about Heuer’s assessment of Gross is his wish to show him as a true individual, which includes his shadow side. In this instance, we see how a Jungian idea may shed light on the life of a man to whom Jung owed much. We learn of ‘the emotional callousness’ with which he treated friends and lovers in his pursuit of freedom and his ‘involvement with the suicide or death’ of several who were close to him, including his lover Sophie Benz (Heuer, 2017, p. 33). Underneath his brilliance, his urge towards ‘free relating’ and his desire for sexual intimacy, Gross experienced a lifelong struggle with loneliness, which was only matched by his lifelong battle with drug addiction. Heuer explores Gross’s failure as a father and examines how his surviving descendants have understood and dealt with their father’s legacy. A discussion of the philosophical underpinnings of Gross’s work is included, as is an interesting appendix on the ‘Mendrisio file’, which contains newly released documents outlining the lengths to which Gross’s parents went to control their ‘wayward’ son. True to the author’s method of trans-historical research, the book does not follow a chronological ordering of Gross’s life as the narrative basis or foundation from which scholarly analysis emerges. Rather, the book unfolds as a collection of impressions: flashes of insight anticipate biographical details, psychobiographical portraits are painted alongside the solid grounding of archival research, and authorial subjectivity juxtaposes oral history interviewing.

The book is challenging in many ways, but those who persist will be rewarded with a vibrant and full picture of the life and work of Otto Gross and a sense of his lasting contribution. Specifically, it argues persuasively as to why the depth psychological community – both clinicians and academics – needs to acknowledge Gross’s impact on the field. Without such a recognition and a subsequent reconciliation, wounded history may never be healed.

A thorough discussion of the book, as well as additional insights from the author, can be found in an in-depth interview with Jonathan Chadwick:  » view on this site

Notes on contributor
Kevin Lu, PhD, is Director of Graduate Studies, Director of Postgraduate Taught Programmes and Director of the MA Jungian and Post-Jungian Studies in the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex. He is a former member of the Executive Committee of the International Association for Jungian Studies. Dr Lu’s publications include articles and chapters on Jung’s relationship to the discipline of history, Arnold J. Toynbee’s use of analytical psychology, critical assessments of the theory of cultural complexes, sibling relationships in the ChineseNietnamese Diaspora and depth psychological approaches to graphic novels and their adaptations to film.


  • Heuer, G. (2017). Freud’s ‘Outstanding Colleague/Jung’s Twin Brother’: The suppressed psychoanalytic and political significance of Otto GrossLondon: Routledge.
  • Lu, K. (2012). Jung, history and his approach to the psyche. Journal of Jungian Scholarly Studies8(9), 1-24. Retrieved from
  • Rowland, 5. (2015). Book review of Carl Jung and Maximus the confessor on psychic development: The dynamics between the ‘psychological’ and the ‘spiritual’ by G. C. Tympas. International Journal of Jungian Studies7(2), 170-172.
  • Tympas, G. C. (2014). Carl Jung and Maximus the confessor on psychic development: The dynamics between the ‘psychological’ and the ‘spiritual’Hove: Routledge.

Kevin Lu
Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies
Colchester, Essex, UK
© 2017 Kevin Lu

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