The Strange Case of Herbert Silberer

The Strange Case of Herbert Silberer (1882-1923): C.G. Jung, Alchemy and the Occult with Tommaso Priviero
The case of the eccentric Viennese thinker and psychoanalyst Herbert Silberer represents an almost completely forgotten piece in the history of psychology and psychoanalysis. However, the connections between his work and C.G. Jung’s are striking and hitherto overlooked, despite Jung once referring to Silberer’s work as a “very important” contribution to the non-reductive interpretation of symbol-formation. Similarly involved in practices of visioning and self-experimentation around the time that Jung was engaged with his own Red Book, Silberer directly influenced Jung’s longstanding interest in alchemy and his ideas around “constructive” and teleological functions of the mind. He formulated the hypothesis of collective symbols known as “elementary types”, ahead of Jung’s own archetypal formulation; he proposed methods of analysis “beyond” dream interpretation and akin to active imagination, before Jung’s similar suggestions. Last but not least, he distanced himself from Freud’s psychoanalytic circle to pursue his own path, although, unlike Jung, he did not found an alternative psychotherapy school and eventually met with a tragic fate. This seminar will dissect the mysterious story of Silberer’s oblivion and recount it through Jung’s remarkable yet still unknown encounter with his life and work.

BIO: Dr. Tommaso Priviero is a historian of psychology and analytical psychologist based in London. He obtained his PhD from University College London (UCL), under the supervision of the editor of Jung’s Red Book, Prof Sonu Shamdasani. He teaches at UCL, regularly publishes scientific articles and takes part in international conferences. His main area of academic expertise is intellectual history. His first book focused on the reception of Epicurean thought in contemporary philosophy (The Lucretius-Pasolini line: ancient and modern face of intellectual nonconformism, 2016). He recently published with Routledge Jung, Dante, and the Making of the Red Book: Of Fire and Form (2023), with a foreword by Sonu Shamdasani.

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