Voices, Voices Mesmerize*. Freud, Jung, Virginia Woolf and Pattie Smith

I don't feel that I'm somewhere that I shouldn't be.

Pattie Smith

There is -- no doubt, an eerie presence in some houses that have been shared with unusual intensity. There are some ghostly energies palpable in the air. It may come to you as the elusive echo of faint voices or some trace of a vanished smell. 

I still remember with some thrill a very strange experience I had while visiting Freud's home in Vienna some years ago. I don't know how popular the spot may be today but at the time it seemed to me quite remote from the core of the old city -- some residential district for the middle-class you reached by bus. I can still see myself in the solemn stairway to Freud's flat all alone climbing the red-carpeted steps that made me feel like I was in the shoes of some Freud's wealthy female patient from the last century. I was ushered into what was now some sort of a museum -- rather a mausoleum by a very discreet attendant. The lofty sombre flat with fine panelling and moulding was filled with some heavy presence hovering around. I don't know why but my imagination had been arrested in the contemplation of one of Freud's belongings, a cabinet of antiquities filled with a collection of Egyptian objects and Primitive works of art. I was lost in my thoughts when I was summoned back to the present reality by the smell of a cigar breath I felt in the back of my neck. Nobody was there. A couple of years later I was reading Histoire de ma vie, Jung's Memories he wrote with collaborator Aniela Jaffé four years before he died. I was through a chapter describing an explosive argument between the young man and his mentor about the very same cabinet I had been so much engrossed with when the same olfactive illusion happened again. I smelled a breath of cigar. The passage described a visit that 33 years old Jung paid to his elder confident to collect his views on paranormal phenomena. While Freud passionately dismissed the whole matter as nonsensical, both of them could hear loud creaking noises coming from the bookshelves of the old cabinet. Jung described how he felt a curious sensation in his diaphragm just before foretelling to incredulous Freud they would be soon hearing another noise. He had not yet finished his sentence that a second loud crack came from the cabinet. Both Jung and Freud started up in alarm very much shaken but in a letter dated April of the same year 1909 Freud reasserted his opposition to Jung in a display of utmost 'materialistic prejudice' and challenge

I don't know how it happened now that willing to write on Pattie Smith's relation to Charleston House and Virginia Woolf those long forgotten impressions resurfaced. It might be that Virginia Woolf's intense effort to capture the infinity of the mindscape is still at work. Bodies can pass away but prose and poetry never lose voice.

Sigmund Freud's Letter to Carl G. Jung, April 1909

"I do not deny that your comments and your experiment made a powerful impression upon me. After your departure I determined to make some observations, and here are the results. In my front room there are continual creaking noises, from where the two heavy Egyptian steles rest on the oak boards of the bookcase, so that's obvious. In the second room, where we heard the crash, such noises are very rare. At first I was inclined to ascribe some meaning to it if the noise we heard so frequently when you were here were never again heard after your departure. But since then it has happened over and over again, yet never in connection with my thoughts and never when I was considering you or your special problem. (Not now, either, I add by way of challenge). The phenomenon was soon deprived of all significance for me by something else. My credulity, or at least my readiness to believe, vanished along with the spell of your personal presence ... The furniture stands before me spiritless and dead, like nature silent and godless before the poet after the passing of the gods of Greece."

C. G. Jung's Erinnerungen, Traüme, Gedanken, original text on line :

Es interessierte mich, Freuds Ansichten über Praekognition und über Parapsychologie im allgemeinen zu hören. Als ich ihn im Jahre 1909 in Wien besuchte, fragte ich ihn, wie er darüber dächte. Aus seinem materialistischen Vorurteil heraus lehnte er diesen ganzen Fragenkomplex als Unsinn ab und berief sich dabei auf einen dermaßen oberflächlichen Positivismus, daß ich Mühe hatte, ihm nicht allzu scharf zu entgegnen. Es vergingen noch einige Jahre, bis Freud die Ernsthaftigkeit der Parapsychologie und die Tatsächlichkeit «okkulter» Phänomene anerkannte.
Während Freud seine Argumente vorbrachte, hatte ich eine merkwürdige Empfindung. Es schien mir, als ob mein Zwerchfell aus Eisen bestünde und glühend würde - ein glühendes Zwerchfellgewölbe. Und in diesem Augenblick ertönte ein solcher Krach im Bücherschrank, der unmittelbar neben uns stand, daß wir beide furchtbar erschraken. Wir dachten, der Schrank fiele über uns zusammen. Genauso hatte es getönt. Ich sagte zu Freud: «Das ist jetzt ein sogenanntes katalytisches Exteriorisationsphänomen.» «Ach», sagte er, «das ist ja ein leibhaftiger Unsinn!» «Aber nein», erwiderte ich, «Sie irren, Herr Professor. Und zum Beweis, daß ich recht habe, sage ich nun voraus, daß es gleich nochmals so einen Krach geben wird!» - Und tatsächlich: kaum hatte ich die Worte ausgesprochen, begann der gleiche Krach im Schrank!
Ich weiß heute noch nicht, woher ich diese Sicherheit nahm. Aber ich wußte mit Bestimmtheit, daß das Krachen sich wiederholen würde. Freud hat mich nur entsetzt angeschaut. Ich weiß nicht, was er dachte, oder was er schaute! Auf jeden Fall hat dieses Erlebnis sein Mißtrauen gegen mich geweckt, und ich hatte das Gefühl, ihm etwas angetan zu haben. Ich sprach nie mehr mit ihm darüber. 

Charleston House
East Sussex

Berggasse, 19
1090 Vienna

*Pattie Smith, Pissing in a River

 Pissing in a river, watching it rise

Tattoo fingers shy away from me

Voices voices mesmerize

Voices voices beckoning sea

Come come come come back come back

Come back come back come back

1 Pattie Smith, The River Ouse 22,80 x 15,10, 2008
2 Pattie Smith, Paintbrushes, Duncan Grant's Studio
3 Pattie Smith, Virginia Woolf's bed 
4 Pattie Smith, Self-Portrait titled 'Bird Head' 25,00 x 17,50, 1973

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