Ruth Mack Brunswick

« A Dream from an Eleventh Century Japanese Novel »

(Int. J. Psa, VII, 1927.)


« Ein Traum aus einem japanischen Roman des elften Jahrhunderts. », Imago, XIV, 1928.

Ce premier article, peu avant l’admission de Ruth à la Société psychanalytique de Vienne et à l’Association psychanalytique de New-York, est fort bref. Il consiste en fait à souligner, à partir d’un roman japonais
[1], combien les découvertes scientifiques de la psychanalyse rejoignent les insights de certains poètes quant à la constitution psychique polymorphe et sa conflictualité.

* * *

In the summer of 1925 there appeared in the English translation of Arthur Waley, The Tale of Genji, a large Japanese work in novel form, written 1001-1015 A.D., by Lady Murasaki, a member of the Emperor's court. Despite its sheerly poetic and narrative beauty, and its translator's emphasis of these qualities, it is in its psychological aspect that the tale of the largely amorous adventures of Genji, a Japanese Don Juan, is of particular interest to us. Many passages might be quoted ; the following evaluation of a dream has seemed to me especially noteworthy.
Aoi, the wife of Genji, has just died ; and it is assumed here, as throughout the book, that the hatred of an enemy, known or unknown, has killed her. Lady Rokujo, the mistress of Genji, is aware of the fact that Aoi's death is attributed to the machinations of her « living spirit ». She broods upon the nature of her feeling toward Aoi, but is unable to discover in it anything save intense unhappiness. « Yet she could not be sure whether somewhere in the depths of a soul consumed by anguish some spark of malice had not lurked ». Here recollects a dream :
« It seemed to her that she had been in a large magnificent room, where lay a girl whom she knew to be the Princess Aoi. Snatching her by the arm she had mauled and dragged the prostrate figure, with an outburst of brutal fury such as in her waking life would have been utterly foreign to her. Since then she had had the same dream several times. How terrible ! It seemed then that it was really possible for one's spirit to leave the body and break out into emotions which the waking mind would not countenance ».
The comment of the translator on this particular, one might almost say psychoanalytic, quality of Murasaki's insight is as follows :
« She (Murasaki) is modern again owing to the accident that medieval Buddhism possessed certain psychological conceptions which happen to be current in Europe to-day. The idea that human personality is built up of different layers which may act in conflict, that an emotion may exist in its fullest intensity and yet be unperceived by the person in whom it is at work - such conceptions were commonplaces in ancient Japan. They give to Murasaki's work a certain rather fallacious air of modernity ».
But to us as analysts it cannot seem « accidental » that facts which were axiomatic in ancient Japan should coincide with the results of our own laborious scientific observation, contrary as these have always been to prevalent occidental beliefs. An investigation of these similarities, especially as regards the unconscious, its appearance in dreams, and dreams themselves as the expression of wishes or « emotions which the waking mind would not countenance » would seem to promise much, despite the comparative inaccessibility of the actual sources (many of which; however, are available in translation), to all except such rare Oriental scholars as Mr. Waley.

[1] The Tale of Genji, de Lady Murasaki, traduit en anglais par Arthur Waley. London, George Allen and Unwin Ltd., juin 1925.


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