1st Edition

Occultism and the Origins of Psychoanalysis Freud, Ferenczi and the Challenge of Thought Transference

By Maria Pierri Copyright 2023
    288 Pages
    by Routledge

    288 Pages
    by Routledge

    Occultism and the Origins of Psychoanalysis traces the origins of key psychoanalytic ideas back to their roots in hypnosis and the occult.

    Maria Pierri follows Freud’s early interest in "thought-transmission," now known as telepathy. Freud’s private investigations led to discussions with other leading figures like Carl Jung and Sándor Ferenczi, with whom he held a "dialogue of the unconsciouses." Freud’s and Ferenczi’s work assessed how fortune tellers could read the past from a client, inspiring their investigations into countertransference, the analytic relationship, unconscious communication, and mother-infant relationality. Both Freud and Ferenczi tried in different ways to come close to understanding the infant’s occult link with the mother and their secret primal language: their research on thought transference may be identified as a matrix of the developments of current psychoanalysis. Pierri clearly links modern psychoanalytic practice with Freud’s interests in the occult using primary sources, some of which have never previously been published in English.

    Occultism and the Origins of Psychoanalysis will be of great interest to psychoanalysts in practice and in training, as well as academics and scholars of Freudian ideas, psychoanalytic theory, the history of psychology, and the occult. It is complemented by Sigmund Freud and The Forsyth Case: Coincidences and Thought-Transmission in Psychoanalysis.


    Stefano Bolognini

    Prologue: a result of character: the cocaine, this magical substance

    1. Vienna, Porta Orientis of the Unconscious

    The force of suggestion: the "wonderful somnambulists"


    Vienna, laboratory of modernity

    2. The Young Freud

    A passionate young researcher into nature

    First love

    Martha and Bertha: the languages of passion

    3. The Lesson of Jean Martin Charcot

    At the Salpêtrière

    The apparatus of language

    The magic of words

    4. The lesson of Josef Breuer and the "descent to the mothers"

    Studies on hysteria

    A difficult separation: not all debts can be paid

    A foundation myth: a false pregnancy and a cure with a defect.

    5. Sigmund Freud’s lesson

    The discovery of a false connection

    Irma’s throat and the feminine at the origin of psychoanalysis.

    Dream as desire

    6. Fliess and the invention of psychoanalysis

    A secret correspondence

    My friend in Berlin

    Freud’s heart trouble

    7. The discovery of infantile sexuality

    Self-analysis and the writing cure

    Cherchez la femme: the case of Emma Eckstein

    8. Original thought requires a rupture

    The "reader of thoughts"

    The accusation of plagiarism

    A future in the image of the past: predestination and superstition

    9. Occultism made in the USA


    Medium, media, and "mental telegraphy"

    First hypotheses about the unconscious

    10 Jung, spiritualism, and countertransference: the world of the dead

    Jung, Poltergeist phenomena, and séances

    The arrival at Burghölzli

    First visit to Vienna

    Easter 1909: Jung’s spiritual complex and Sabina

    The dangerous fascination of the "beautiful Jewess"

    11. Ferenczi, the unclassifiable

    The sultan and his "clairvoyant"

    A psychoanalyst "of a restless mind"

    Ferenczi and the hidden treasure of Spiritualism

    The encounter with Freud: a postponed transferential appointment

    12. A journey to America

    Three men and an eventful, mutually analytic crossing: the outward journey…

    … and back again

    13. The Danaan gift

    The clairvoyant who reads Ferenczi’s mind

    The patient who reads Ferenczi’s mind

    The Palermo incident, or the interpretation of paranoia

    The psychic work of the clairvoyant: two unfulfilled prophecies

    14. An epistolary novel

    Ferenczi and incestuous countertransferential storms: from mother to daughter

    What is still missing is the fatherly blessing: fatefulness and Oedipal coincidences

    Elma Pàlos, fragment of the analysis of a seduction

    The open wound in Ferenczi’s heart, a source of creativity

    15. The Saturday goy: getting to know Dr Jones

    The Welsh liar

    Difficult beginnings

    Freud’s first pupil from Britain

    Dr Jones’s stethoscope: rationalisation and censorship of excess countertransference

    A prescribed training analysis in Budapest

    16. The intergenerational transmission of psychoanalysis

    Love and death: the three women of the three pupils

    "If you go to women, don't forget the whip"

    At school with Freud: the transmission of psychoanalysis

    17. The secret committee

    The transformations and the desertion of Jung

    A missed meeting: the "Kreuzlingen gesture"

    The Committee: the Männerbund and the defence of the "Cause" (Die Sache)

    Totem and taboo: unconscious intelligence and intergenerational transmission of thought

    18. 1913 - the year before the war

    The last congress with Jung

    A black tide of occultism

    The question of telepathy

    The dialogues of the unconscious

    Epilogue: a fortune-teller visits Freud in Berggasse




    Maria Pierri is a psychiatrist and child neuropsychiatrist, formerly researcher and adjunct professor at the Psychiatric Clinic, Medical School, University of Padua. She is a training analyst of the Italian Psychoanalytical Society and International Psychoanalytical Association and member of the editorial board of the Rivista di Psicoanalisi.

    "This book gives back to contemporary psychoanalysis the pleasure of exploring really little-known territories, fascinatingly restoring the connection between the past, present and 'elsewhere' of communications between human beings, using the Freudian experience as its starting point, in order to reconsider in a reflective way the less visible, sometimes disorienting and mysterious levels of psychoanalytic practice. It offers us an especially valuable reflection on the mysterious communicating paths which put individual and group unconsciouses in contact with each other, often bypassing in an apparently disconcerting manner the border controls." - Stefano Bolognini, past president of the IPA and the Italian Psychoanalytic Society


    "Following the thread of thought-transference, Maria Pierri goes through the events of the Freudian endeavour starting from its roots in hypnosis and occultism, through the dialogue with the masters, the pupils and the great female patients, the leading actresses of the cure. In his disquieting curiosity for telepathy, which he shared intimately with Ferenczi, Freud discovers that fortune-tellers, who do not know the future, can read the unconscious of their clients. But the 'golden coin' of occultism, the generative mother-child communication, will be the great discovery of Ferenczi." - Luis J. Martin Cabré, training analyst, past president, Madrid Psychoanalytical Association


    "Today we know much about the polyphonic complex of contexts, experiences, relationships and ideas which made psychoanalysis possible and still nourish its current debates. We can be very grateful to Maria Pierri for bringing us up to date with the role and meaning of some little-known aspects of Freud’s life and work concerning occultism and the fascinating dialogue of the unconsciouses developed with Ferenczi: what the Author identifies as one of the matrices of the developments of contemporary psychoanalysis." - Marco Conci, MC, IPA Committee on the History of Psychoanalysis