Introducing Bion and Jung

The comparison between Bion’s and Jung’s thought has become, in recent years, a field of growing interest, for a part at least of psychoanalysts and analytical psychologists, the one more open to dialogue and a ‘pluralist’ attitude towards knowledge. This issue of Funzione Gamma stems from Stefania Marinelli’s invitation to explore this field. As a result, authors from various backgrounds (including psychoanalysis, analytical psychology, and group psychoanalysis) have come together here. Therefore, it seems necessary to make a premise regarding the ‘small group’ constituted by the authors present here with their work.
There is a highly complex interweaving of historical and phantasmatic issues whenever a comparison (or confrontation) between authors can be traced back to the vicissitudes of the history of psychoanalysis.
The event that first united and then separated Freud and Jung is considered a sort of mythical antecedent with traumatic aspects, still needs to be thoroughly elaborated. So, it has indeed left traces through transgenerational transmission in the various generations of analysts of both schools, even more than a century later.
Therefore, I think that all the stratifications of the dynamics that have intervened between these two ‘ethnicities’ of belonging, starting from the ancestors that have become in some degree ‘mythological’, Freud and Jung, may be present also in this   ‘group field’. I refer to Neri’s (2003) conceptualization of ‘group field’, here regarding the group of authors in this issue of Funzione Gamma. Bion has been hailed as the psychoanalyst who profoundly modified, if not revolutionised, Freudian-derived psychoanalysis. He had adhered to it – in its Kleinian version – at a certain point in his own evolution, and he was trained as a psychoanalyst in its institutions; even if, as Hinshelwood and Torres state,

Bion was an atypical psychoanalyst and psychiatrist. He came quite late to psychoanalysis, after his mature years, in a point of the life cycle where he had been already developing his own adult thinking and had been moulded by many thinkers and cultural languages other than Freud’s semantic universe. (Hinshelwood and Torres, 2013, p.XV)


However, Bion also went beyond the boundaries of this tradition by reworking his earlier experiences and theorisations.
The reference to the founding moments of psychoanalysis and to their stratified presence in the ‘transgenerational unconscious’ of analysts can, in my opinion, account for the presence in some of them of a kind of ‘recomposition’ fantasy (among which I consider myself). One of the possible risks is that in juxtaposing these two giants of psychoanalytic thought, Jung and Bion, there could be a tendency to flatten their differences and to lose the great potential of their dialectical comparison. On the other side, if these differences are overestimated, the search for an underlying unifying thought could be thus sanctioned as ‘illusory.’
In the Jungian field, elements of similarity, convergence, or at least resonance have been noted between Jung’s and Bion’s conceptions since the latter’s books appeared. Particular attention to his work has been the prerogative of the ‘evolutionary’ school’, especially in the UK, according to the well-known classification of post-Jungians made by Andrew Samuels in the 1980s (Samuels, 1986), later revised and modified by him (Samuels, 2008). The attention paid to Bion’s works in this field was contextualised in the search for integration with the conceptions of the Kleinian school carried out by Michael Fordham.
In this regard, it is interesting to report some comments from articles or reviews of Bion’s books that appeared in the Journal of Analytical Psychology, when they came out. In reviewing ‘The Elements of Psychoanalysis’, Kenneth Lambert (1964) emphasized Bion’s use of mythological elements (Oedipus, Eden, Tower of Babel). The myths, according to Bion, may be regarded as a primitive form of pre-conception and a stage in publication that is, in the communication of the individual’s knowledge to his group. Here Lambert found a deep affinity with Jung’s interest in mythology.
However, at the time, Fred Plaut was primarily concerned with Bion. In his review of ‘Attention and Interpretation,’ he related the concept of ‘ultimate reality and ‘O’ to that of ‘individuation’ and emphasised the concordance between some of Bion’s statements and Jung’s fundamental distinction between Ego and Self:

[…]In the chapter entitled ‘Lies and the thinker’, one may be surprised to read that the more his (the analyst’s own) knowledge, experience and character seem to be essential to a formulated thought, the more alien it is to domain of ultimate reality. It precludes at-one-ment with it. I can only reconcile this statement with what had previously been said about individual personality of the analyst by suggesting that Bion is making an explicit distinction between the archetype of the self and the ego comparable to the way Jung does […]But from whatever angle one looks at it, this book contains much food for thought and no comforting lies. (Plaut 1972, p.215)

Again, in an article from 1974, Plaut wondered whether in the work of M. Klein and Bion (referring to partial objects) an assonance to the theory of archetypes could be found and concluded substantial proximity of Bion’s theses on ‘ultimate reality’ – O – with the numinous aspects of the archetype of the Self:

Bion seems to have delivered the coup-de-grace to the strictly deterministic attitude of psychoanalysis: he throws doubt on the usefulness of preconceived knowledge and prefers to look upon the phenomena of analytical transactions as emanations of ultimate reality or absolute truth, unknowable as such. The difference between his thesis and the numinous aspect of the self-archetype seems to me purely semantic. (Plaut 1974, p 179, my italics)

Concluding with an epistemological assessment:

Although differences remain, psychodynamic theories have come considerably closer in the last, say, forty years [this is ’74!] and one can conclude that the reason for this lies in the recognition of both the common aims and limitations of all theories, even if they are indispensable. (Ibidem, my [italics])

Later Plaut (1977), in reviewing the book Introduction to Bion’s Thought by Grinberg, Sor, and Tabak de Bianchedi, after pointing out the ‘obvious similarities’ of the concept of ‘Transformation into O’ with the Jungian concept of Individuation, questioned why Bion never referred to the Jungian concepts of self-realization and individuation. He concluded by considering it a typical example of the fact that some analysts need to invent their own terminology instead of that of their predecessors or colleagues; however, it seemed to him

somewhat surprising that Bion, who devotes attention to the Tower of Babel myth and warns his colleagues in the foreword that their particular discoveries may have no general significance and, further, hopes that the booklet will contribute to the achievement of the capacity to tolerate this modestly, falls into the same trap. (Plaut 1977, p.64)

An important point emphasised by Plaut in the same review is that of the possible usefulness, especially for a Jungian, of approaching the thought of other psychoanalysts, to rework his point of view, and in particular, that of Bion. Nevertheless, in the last lines below, he was ironic about the possibility that a Jungian might step outside his own frame of reference to stand alongside a Bion who nevertheless used a rigorous, abstinent psychoanalytic technique founded on the primacy of interpretation.

The question is whether comparative studies help various analysts, all well acquainted with their specific viewpoint and personal knowledge, to question, review and, if necessary, reformulate what they have come to take for granted and so, with luck, undergo a new ‘evolution in O’. Should any Jungian be tempted away from the fold he needs only to read about Bion’s reliance on a purely interpretative technique – no question of touching the patient, giving tokens, talking about oneself, etc. If that is not enough, let him read about deprivation, isolation and loneliness (p. 72) as being the emotional pre- requisites for the psychoanalytic (according to Bion) setting, both for patient and analyst, in order to help him decide where his particular place in the field of psychotherapy or analysis is. (Plaut 1977, p.66, my italics)

rom these early examples, the comparison between Jung and Bion has been exercised principally concerning his works of the last period, the one following the introduction of the concept of ‘O’ and ‘Transformations in O’, i.e., the beginning of the last phase of his theoretical work. In this phase, Bion moved further and further away from the Kleinian matrix and had deep disagreements within the British Psychoanalytic Society, which contributed to his decision to move to California in 1968.
The concept of ‘transformation in O’ belongs, according to M. Manica (2021, p.130), to an << almost post-Bionian>> Bion. This passage was compared by Grotstein to the ‘crossing of the Rubicon’ by Caesar, the beginning of a ‘revolution’ that went into a more unstable and mysterious terrain, already explored for some time by Jung, approaching spirituality, mysticism, and religion. All Bion’s theoretical constructions were related to what had become the aim of analysis, the transformation into O (Dorella, 2021).
In the psycho-analytic field, among the authors who have most intensively studied the comparison between Jung and Bion, James Grotstein must first be mentioned. In 1997, in an interview with him by JoAnn Culbert-Koehn, he recounted that he had approached the study of Jung’s works because

[…] he was so arcane. Everybody hated him. He was considered anti-Semitic, all the nasty rumors around him; so, I thought that he couldn’t be all that bad. (Culbert-Kohen, 1997, p. 30)

At a conference of the Californian Psychoanalytic Centre held in Los Angeles in 1993, Grotstein had argued that Bion was as close to Jung as to Freud, provoking an icy silence in which no one intervened. (Culbert-Koehn 1997).
Concerning the break between Jung and Freud, Grotstein argued that this break, which brought great pain to both, was utterly unnecessary because ideas do not belong to the originator, of which Bion was aware. Otherwise, it is narcissism, Grotstein concluded in a trenchant manner (Culbert-Koehn, 1997).

Grotstein stated:

I don’t know, but I think they both were going in the same direction, in a sort of poetic language which indicated that what we see and know, is limited by our senses. There is a coherence beyond. I think that’s one of the principal things that unites Jung with Bion, that there is something beyond, before, and in the future, what Bion called a Memoir of the Future (London, Karnac Books, 1991). Respect is given in their theories for there being an intelligence or coherence. God is perhaps the pseudonym for this: I believe Bion, like Jung, was not so much in touch with God as with something beyond (Culbert-Kohen, 1997, pp.17-18)

And on ‘O’ he wrote:

When Bion uncovered ‘O’, he not only stepped outside the known world of logical-positivisticscience, he went beyond an inviolable perimeter of classical and Kleinian understanding. Hehad done the unthinkable by invoking mysticism, religion, and God. Even today, while membersof the British Psychoanalytic Society honor him for the profundity of his innovative thinking,they almost universally refer to his works up to ‘transformations in O’ but not beyond. It is my own personal opinion that his conception of ‘O’ may yet rank as one of the foremostpsychoanalytic discoveries of the century. (Grotstein, 1998, p. 48)

In this paper, Grotstein acknowledged that Jungian analytical psychology has been dealing with the problem of the acting Subject for a long time and that Jung was, for many years, the only one who dared to study the religious root of the analytic Subject until the arrival of Bion. In this connection, he cited Jung’s essay Psychology and Religion (1938-40); from this comparison, it emerges that Jung’s Self has similar characteristics to those Grotstein attributes to the Subject of the unconscious, as something existing a priori from which the Ego evolves (whereby ‘I accede to my -self’).
Grotstein thus wondered whether the unconscious is to be considered a primitive ‘seething cauldron’ (following a Freudian model) or a metaconscious organisation with unique and ineffable qualities (a model very reminiscent of Jung’s) – or, he speculated, perhaps both.

 It is my belief that the Subject, like the Unconscious itself, belongs to the domain of theineffable, the inscrutable, the sacred, the always elusive, perhaps even to the part-divineaspects of ourselves. Whereas the Unconscious represents Absolute Truth or Ultimate Reality (Bion’s ‘O’), the Subject represents its subjective personification as Psychic Reality (1). (Ibidem, p. 51, my italics)

According to Grotstein, Bion had learned a lot from Jung, starting from the lectures he had attended, together with his patient Samuel Beckett, in ’35 at the Tavistock Clinic in London, where he was working. This personal encounter (the only one in both their lives) has taken on somewhat the significance of a ‘selected fact’ (in Bion’s terminology) for all those interested in the comparison between these two authors.

Jung gave five lectures there, between 30 September and 4 October 1935, at the invitation of the director (and founder of the Tavistock in 1920) Hugh Crichton-Miller. At that time, Tavistock was a particular school of psychotherapy that adopted an eclectic approach that sought to integrate ideas from both Freud and Jung. For this reason, it was opposed by the British Psychoanalytic Society, whose founder Ernest Jones seems to have banned psychoanalysts from working there (Hinshelwood, 2013)
The head of teaching staff was James Hadfield, whose orientation was very much towards Jung; Bion was in therapy with him for a few years before joining the Tavistock (Hinshelwood, 2015, p.97).
It seems that Beckett had gone to therapy with Bion (then only a Tavistock-trained psychotherapist and not yet a qualified psychoanalyst) for a writing block and that the therapeutic situation had stalled, so Bion suggested that they go and listen to this lecture by Jung together, to unblock the situation. In one of these lectures, it was Jung’s interpretation of a case as ‘an unborn child’ – Beckett himself is reported, through his biographer, Bair)- that made such a strong impression on both that the writer quickly resolved his symptomatology and, after two months, ended his treatment with Bion, and returned to Dublin (against Bion’s advice) (Maier, 2016). Bion’s interventions to the discussion are given in the edition of Jung’s complete works (Jung,1935)
Christian Maier (2016) investigated this encounter in-depth. According to him, various speculations have been made over time about Jung’s possible long-lasting influence on Bion through these lectures. He recalls that, for example, Fordham wrote that he could not believe that Bion did not get something out of it ‘because it was there ‘ but that he may not have been aware of this influence. Especially important, according to Maier, is the fifth lecture because in it Jung

elaborates there on themes which will appear again quite centrally in Bion’s work – in the model of the container, and in Bion’ version of projective identification (Maier, 2016, p.135)

As for the container, it refers to Bion’s subsequent development of the container/content concept. This concept first appeared in a 1925 paper by Jung, ‘Marriage as a Psychological Relationship’ (Jung, 1925), in which the ‘problem of container and content’ was discussed. Maier hypothesizes that there was a kind of cryptomnesia analogous, for example, to Freud’s derivation of the concept of ‘bisexuality’ from Fliess. To the genesis of which the incompleteness of Jung’s proposed model would also have contributed. In the editorial commentary (by Chris Mawson, 2014) of Bion’s Complete Works (Karnac, 2014), a note states that << […] Bion was making use of terminology that he had retained from reading a paper on marriage by Carl Jung (1925) >>.

Grotstein states that Bion <<was not a scholar who quoted the works of others. For example, ‘Memory and Desire’ is by T. S. Eliot, and this is just one example. I believe Bion learned a lot from Jung, and I would have been happier if he had quoted him >> (Culbert-Kohen, 1997, p.16). On the other hand, it has been stated that

[unlike Freud] Bion wrote in a non – linear, labyrinthine, and enigmatic style, purposely concealing and overlooking many of his sources, allegedly to achieve fresh outlooks, different vertexes of reality, unsaturated with memory and uncontaminated from intellectual prejudice. His narrative style is more Becketian than Shakespearean. (Hinshelwood e Torres, 2015, p.XV, my italics)

From a communication by Parthenope Bion Talamo to the Jungian analyst Augusto Romano (2), we know that Bion knew well and appreciated Jung’s thought. Among Parthenope’s ‘last projects,’ unfortunately interrupted by his untimely death, there was a book, for many years in preparation for Karnac, on the historical roots of her father’s theories. The title should have been ‘ Bion and his books – Pathways to the world of Bion’. A provisional table of contents for the volume was found in her notes, in which the chapter ‘Part Two; Groping Towards Psychoanalysis’ was divided into three paragraphs: a) Psychotherapy – Feel in the Past b) Tavistock c) Jung d) Official Psychoanalytic Training (Hinshelwood & Torres, 2015, p.XVI, my italics).

That is to underline the importance Parthenope Bion attached to Jung in his father’s formative experiences.
Matt ffytche, who questioned Bion’s sources for A Memoir of the Future in his ‘Californian’ period, also states:

Various influences have been proposed in passing, including the impact of the Californianenvironment and the spirit of 1970s counterculture; the long-term influence of Bion’s 1930s analysis of Samuel Beckett (Connor 1998); the encouragement of another analysand, Roland Harris (Harris Williams 2010a, p. 28); and another long-range influence, C.G. Jung, whose work Bion had encountered at the Tavistock lectures in 1935 (ffitche 2013, p.168, my italics)

However, in Bion’s oeuvre, there are few references to Jung. Sometimes he named him, together with Adler, as belonging to the first group of psychoanalysts who, following Freud, had introduced the consideration of the unconscious in studying emotional factors influencing relationships. Alternatively, alongside Stekel, M. Klein, Abraham, and others, as analysts who had found themselves needing to develop different theories, although starting from Freud, to communicate their own experience.
Bion’s references to Jung are often critical of the conception of the Collective Unconscious, which he sometimes calls (to reject it) the ‘group unconscious.’ However, he appears to be looking for something approaching this conception:

Sometimes it becomes clear to the psychoanalyst that the boundaries of the person do not correspond to the person’ s anatomical structure. Melanie Klein, as I understood her to say, did not think that there was any mystery about apparently concerted movements in a group of analysands beyond what could be explained by transference relationship with the same analyst. I think we should keep an open mind. I do not feel any need to postulate ‘extra-sensory’ perception, a herd instinct as Wilfred Trotter did, or a group unconscious as Jung did. I think, however, that there may well be some analogue in the personality to the capillary blood system which in ordinary conditions is dormant but in extraordinary conditions may dilate as in surgical shock. The analogy would be such hyper-stimulation of the individual ‘groupishness’ that his capacity for conscious, sophisticated behaviour seeps away into his ‘unconscious’. Freud considered that there might be substance in Weismann’s theory of the individual personality as subordinate to the germ plasm [Freud, S. (1915). Instincts and their vicissitudes. Standard Edition, 14:117] (Bion, 1974, my italics)

Almost at the end of his life, during a seminar in Los Angeles in the Californian period in 1978, a participant asked him if what he had expounded about a primordial mind present in man as a vestige, like the gill pockets, was not similar to Jung’s archetypes. Bion’s answer was:  <<I think he was probably talking about the same thing. There exists some fundamental mind, something that seems to remain unaltered in us all>>. (Bion, 1978)
In the Jungian sphere too, in my opinion, the interest in the comparison between Jung and Bion has been given a considerable boost again by the Bionian Grotstein, who published several articles in the Journal of Analytical Psychology. Moreover, since the 1990s, numerous articles and monographs on related topics have appeared, especially by Jungian analysts from the Californian and London area. Among them, I would like to mention Barbara Stevens Sullivan, who wrote a monograph on this topic in 2010, and Ann Addison – who contributed to this issue with one paper – who, in addition to various articles, published a monograph on the Jungian concept of the ‘psychoid’, in which a substantial part is dedicated to the comparison with the concept of the ‘Protomental’ in Bion (2019).
The reverse route, the comparison between Bion and Jung made by analysts from Freudian-derived psychoanalytic circles, seems much less practiced and almost non-existent before Grotstein. A particular case, at least as far as Italy is concerned, is represented by analysts oriented towards group psychoanalysis with a Bionian orientation, who have their origin both theoretically and historically in the thought and activity of Francesco Corrao. Some of them have long been interested in Jung’s theories (one example is Claudio Neri, who often refers in his books to the Jungian concept of synchronicity). However, it seems that, among Freudian psychoanalysts, it was precisely the group dimension – and its Bionian reading – that most aroused interest in Jung (3), and this is quite surprising because it contrasts with a commonplace that sees Jung as not interested in, if not hostile to, groups. I will return to this point when presenting one of the articles in this issue.
However, in Italy, it was recently a Freudian psychoanalyst, Mauro Manica – extending, perhaps somewhat provocatively, Grotstein’s theses – who argued that Bion could perhaps be considered Jung’s most significant heir:

Can we think that there is a submerged Jungian thought that first infiltrated and then erupted into psychoanalysis’s epistemological (and theoretical) evolution? Suppose the expansion of the concept of the unconscious was the first implicit cause of the diaspora between Freudian and Jungian thought. In that case, it could not have been Bion, the new Master of the new psychoanalysis, to become the repository (the ultimate term) of a heretical and subversive hereditary legacy? Or somewhat of a submerged-not-completely-hosted and not-yet-thinkable for the mind (and for psychoanalysis) of Freud? (Manica, 2013, p.158, author’s translation)

Manica – who contributed to this issue of ‘Funzione Gamma’ – later developed this concept in numerous articles and volumes investigating the often-unacknowledged contribution to contemporary psychoanalysis by many AA. once considered ‘heretical’ by ‘orthodox psychoanalysis.’
The comparison between Jung’s and Bion’s conceptions, of whose progress I have tried to sketch a brief historical profile, takes on certain connotations. So, I will enunciate them, with the awareness that more in-depth and systematic research is needed into the motivations that may drive analysts of various backgrounds to undertake it.

1) For Jungians, it can be situated in the more general sphere of the search for ‘Jungian’ elements (similarities or consonances with aspects of Jung’s thought) in the production of post-Freudian authors. Although not always superimposable, elements can often be found, testifying to the extraordinary richness of Jung’s thought, even if it was expressed in a largely unsystematic way.

The presence of these elements also testifies to Jung’s deep rootedness in the psychoanalytic revolution of the early 20th century and the legitimacy of his belonging to it, despite the ostracism (4) long exercised against him by the institutions of Freudian-derived psychoanalysis. Nevertheless, the risk of this operation, carried out by the Jungians, is indulging in a sort of ‘revanchism’ of the type: <<But Jung had already said that!>>. On the one hand, it allows us to obviate obvious removals in history; on the other hand, it can hinder the recognition of specific peculiarities of the Jungian attitude not seen as being in opposition to Freud and his epigones. We know, moreover, that the thinking of both Freud and Jung had evolved since their separation, but there is little evidence in their later works. We also know that the historian of psychoanalysis, Paul Roazen, argued in 1976 (Roazen, 1976) that no one in the Psychoanalytic Society would have objected if a psychoanalyst had then supported the ideas that Jung was advancing in 1913.

In particular, within these comparisons with the post-Freudians, the one with Bion seems to appeal to Jungians in some respects: Bion’s visionary nature, his venturing – to the risk of accusations of ‘mysticism'( 5) – into the mythological and religious terrain so widely explored by Jung, his use of intuition, his contrast with the psychoanalytic establishment, even the accusation of ‘psychosis’; all factors that unite him with Jung in a way unprecedented for any other post-Freudian author.

However, as Samuels (2000) states, in recent decades, there has been a kind of ‘return of Jung from exile’ in clinical and academic circles related to literature or the history of religions. For example, Barbara Stevens Sullivan (2010) draws a parallel between Jung’s fate and that of the Jesuit scientist and philosopher Teilhard de Chardin (whom Jung was reading shortly before his death), who argued for the presence in the universe of an intentional but ineffable core. Stevens Sullivan argues that for years the Vatican put Teilhard de Chardin’s theological writings on the list of banned books, but now his work is there esteemed as ‘visionary’; something similar is allegedly happening to Jung in the psychoanalytic sphere.

According to Samuels (2000), even Jungians have changed in recent decades. He claims (Samuels, 2008) that four groups or ‘schools’ can be identified among Jung’s followers: fundamentalist, classical, evolutionary, and psychoanalytic. For our topic, I would like to focus on the latter, which Samuels considers, like the former (the ‘fundamentalist’ one), a form of ‘extremism.’ According to Samuels, it would manifest itself as a tendency to ‘fuse’ with the conceptions of psychoanalysis, resulting from an idealisation of Freudian and post-Freudian psychoanalysis, particularly on the clinical level. This tendency, he states, is widespread above all in England, Germany, and the USA. It is characterised as the excessive valorisation of the setting, with its aspects of abstinence and neutrality concerning the analytic relationship. At the same time, the contents (images in the first place) are neglected. The consequence would be the loss of the specificity of Jungian thought and clinic, ultimately founded on the hermeneutic approach to the clinical material, therefore not causalistic but linked to meaning. I wondered whether the interest in Bion, manifested by many Jungians, might also be linked to this mode, i.e., psychoanalytic; nevertheless, they are, in my opinion, two entirely different positions. Samuels refers to Freudian and post-Freudian psychoanalysis as a discipline strongly characterised by ‘knowledge’ on the theoretical and technical levels. However, it has been – and continues to be – revolutionised by Bion’s contribution in a direction that now makes it somewhat more susceptible to integrative articulation with analytical psychology. Grotstein, after all, spoke of a Bion somehow ‘halfway’ between Freud and Jung.

2) As far as the ‘Bionians’ are concerned, I have the impression that at least part of their interest in Jung may derive from his conception of archetypes and the collective unconscious, particularly for the so-called ‘Groupologists.’ The concept of the ‘collective unconscious’ can be thought of as one of the possible foundations of psychic activity, so to say, that exceeds the individual. Moreover, for Jung, the psyche of the individual is already a complex psyche, in which the complexes are relatively autonomous and organise themselves around a centre constituted by the Self. This view of the psyche is intensely evocative of ‘internal groupishness’, a concept developed by psychoanalysts such as Pichon-Riviere, Napolitani, Resnik, Hautmann, Kaes, and others. Nevertheless, as mentioned earlier, Bion always rejected the concept of ‘collective unconscious’: or at least, one may think, just a part of him did so, the one represented in ‘A Memoir of the Future’ as the character of the Psychoanalyst (P.A.):

P.A I am sometimes asked if I advise psychoanalysis; I incur hostility because I say it is no part of advice I am qualified to give. I agree that merely being what I am suggests something to the patient, but I think it my duty to demonstrate to him that impulse of which he is often unaware.
priest Has not Jung said this?
p.a. He said he agreed with Freud’s description of the transference; he talked also of archetypes and a collective unconscious. I don’t see why he should not call the Oedipus figure an archetype if he wants to, or say that an equivalent of the Oedipus figure exists in every human being. But I do not see any need to augment Freud’s facts and theory; if I saw a better way of demonstration, I would not hesitate to use it. The postulate of a collective unconscious seems to me to be unnecessary. I would not say that because two people see a mountain, that is evidence of a ‘collective eye’; it is simpler to say both people have eyes that function in a similar manner. I would not use an expression which might risk an increase in ambiguity – which is bad enough at best. (Bion,1977, p. 188-189)

3) Matte Blanco, in a fascinating work from 1981 entitled ‘Reflecting with Bion’, which appeared in a monographic issue of Rivista di Psicoanalisi devoted to Bion, states:

Some <<bionians>> strike me as mechanical. From the way they employ them, alpha and beta-elements, K, O, etc, appear at the same time so crude and so wishy-washy! Perhaps they are lazy and prefer to repeat words which have become devoid of meaning. Their laziness would spring from their fear of thinking, and therefore of facing catastrophic changes […] No wonder that they may prefer to cling to concepts transformed into stereotypes (Matte Blanco,1981, p.481-482)

Then he corrects himself:

[…] So, after all, not only those bionians but every one of us is frightened.

When we enter the analysis room, as Bion rightly points out (6) we are all scared – or we should be aware of being scared – whether we are Jungian, Freudian, Bionians, Kleinian, Lacanian, or other. We can all be mechanical, crude, and approximate like <<those Bionians >> stigmatised by Matte Blanco. The risk of which Matte Blanco speaks, of <<grasping concepts transformed into stereotypes >> is transversal to every school of theoretical thought and clinical practice, and every analyst should be aware of it.

A possible lifesaver in the face of it can be the continuous comparison between the various theoretical thoughts in psychoanalysis. From the application of the analytical method, for more than a century, they have emerged, intertwined, confronted, and even often fought in the psychoanalytic field, in its broadest sense. Bion spoke of ‘thoughts without a thinker, and Jung expressed a similar concept in his autobiography:

[Philemon] said I treated thoughts as if I generated them myself, but in his view, thoughts were like animals in the forest, or people in a room, or birds in the air.    (Jung 1961, p.183)

Ogden (2022) distinguishes between an epistemological psychoanalysis (relating to knowing and understanding) and an ontological psychoanalysis (relating to being and becoming). In the last seventy years, he states, a radical change has taken place, albeit somewhat subterranean and understated, with a shift in emphasis from epistemological to ontological psychoanalysis – although both are naturally present in all psychoanalysis, it is a matter of degree and focus. According to Ogden, emblematic of the former are Freud and M. Klein, while he identifies the prominent representatives of the latter in Winnicott and Bion. Then Ogden lists no less than eighteen authors, in alphabetical order from Balint to Williams, who, in his opinion, contributed to the development of the ontological aspect of psychoanalysis. Among them, somewhat surprisingly but not too surprisingly, there is no Jung. Evidently, Ogden does not regard him as an author belonging to the psychoanalytic world, since Jung’s emphasis on the ‘ontological’ side seems unquestionable.
Barbara Stevens Sullivan argues that Bion’s concept of O provides a link to much of Jung’s work and that by keeping both visions in mind – Jung’s and Bion’s – we can arrive at a much fuller picture of our position in the world, a position of profound vulnerability.

The truth cannot be known, and this truth – the fundamental mystery of life -is bearable only briefly and only in the context of a loving relationship. We are essentially lost in the world, unable to even sort what belongs inside us and what comes from outside, who we are and who the other is. It is deeply disorienting to recognize that what modern physics teach us about the inherent mystery of the universe’s nature applies to us as well as to subatomic particles[…]These disorienting experiences, which can emerge only in the context of a relationship – transformations in O- are the heart of the work, but […] – K fuels the over-determined use of the word ‘scientific’ to modify the product of our field (paper, conferences, etc.), the rejection of studying the psyche’s religious instinct, and, I believe, the extraordinary annihilation of Jung and his work by the psychoanalytic community (Stevens Sullivan 2010, p.258-259, my italics)

This quote allows me to move on to the presentation of this issue of Funzione Gamma: hopefully, it moves in the opposite direction to -K, evoked by Stevens Sullivan, opening to a dialectical comparison and even confrontation, the prerogative of a conception of psychoanalysis not restricted to ‘schools’, ‘societies’ or ‘associations’ spheres.
Jung and Bion, indeed, were two giants of psychoanalytic thought – or thought in general – and the comparative study of their contribution to the knowledge of psychic life, founded on a love of truth, can be very fruitful and vital for psychic life itself. However, it is an endless field, before which we can only arm ourselves with humility, patience, and ‘negative capacity’. Some of the papers collected here are purely theoretical; in others, there are clinical examples both from both individual and group therapies.

The issue opens with the work of Ann Addison. Through historical development from their personal experiences during the First World War, she compares Jung’s ideas on the collective and Bion’s on groups. In particular, the concepts of the ‘psychoid’ in Jung and the ‘protomental’ in Bion are investigated, which show overlapping aspects but also divergent aspects regarding the main interests of the two AA. and the application of their concepts. In my opinion, comparing these two concepts is one of the core aspects of the entire subject matter of this issue.

Brigitte Allain-Dupré introduces us to a clinical field related to recent developments in bio-medical technology and their repercussions on the phantasmatic world of the subjects involved and society in general. The therapy of Martino, an eight-year-old child born from a PMA (Medically Assisted Procreation) procedure, crosses the analyst’s counter-transferential experience. Furthermore, it puts her in contact with profound aspects linked to life and death, in the elaboration of which a theoretical perspective where the visions of Jung and Bion are integrated proves particularly significant.

Mauro Manica first investigates, from the theoretical side, the theme of projective identification, considered one of the possible ‘bridges of connection’ between Bion’s and Jung’s thoughts. Then tackles the ‘Jungian matrices of Bion’s thought,’ grasping the structural aspects beyond the historical reconstructions of Jung’s possible direct influence on Bion. Finally, in the second part of his paper, Manica presents a very particular ‘clinical case’: the one concerning the analysis that actor and director Clint Eastwood carried out with Bion in the early 1970s, during Bion’s ‘Californian’ period.

Stefano Carta makes a systematic and in-depth review, articulated in ten points of the main areas of convergence (or not) between Jung’s and Bion’s thought, identifying a common paradigm; from it, he argues, emerges the possibility of a helpful comparison on the epistemological and clinical levels. The work is very rich in references to the works of the two authors, and the reader is led, step by step in a comprehensive way, to their comparison.

Roberto Manciocchi’s article uses the concept of ‘oblivion’ – a necessary counterpart to that of ‘memory’ and a particular aspect of the ‘value of the negative’ – as the key to entering a concept of psychotherapy aimed at the search for meaning, which characterises both masters. Against the background of Wittgenstein’s reflections on language, the concepts of ‘evolution of the session’ in Bion and Jung’s ‘imaginatio vera’ (taken from the alchemical writings) are compared. The author emphasises the close connection between a psychotherapeutic praxis based on truth and ethical consideration.

The last two contributions, by Manfredo Lauro Grotto and Paola Russo et al., extend more into the clinical field, both individual and group, in a ‘Bionian’ context the first and ‘Jungian’ the second.

Manfredo Lauro Grotto’s work introduces an original and innovative concept, the ‘symmetrical synchronic fractal transformations,’ which he proposes to add to the groups of transformations identified by Bion in ‘Transformations.’ This concept derives from the integration of the points of view of Jung, Bion, Matte Blanco, and Neumann in a unitary model that allows, according to Lauro Grotto, a better fine-tuning of the complex relations between the individual unconscious and the collective unconscious. From this point of view, the various theories elaborated in more than a century of life of depth psychology could be << […] considered local articulations and declinations of the Transformations of a global unconscious field, that each school of thought from its specific summit contributes to illuminate >>.

Paola Russo, in a paper written with Cristina Brunialti, Salvatore Agnese, Pasquale Caulo, andFederica Sebasta, compares two somewhat ‘technical’ aspects, amplification in Jung and reverie in Bion, through their ways of manifesting themselves in the individual and group clinic. It seems essential to me to emphasise a particular aspect about the latter. It is commonplace a distrust, if not blame, of the group on Jung’s part (7), motivated by the fact that the ‘collective’ mentality, which manifests itself in groups, would have been, for him, an obstacle to the process of individuation (on the other hand, M. Klein was also hostile to groups, which seems to have been a problem for Bion). However, as has been argued, examining the Jungian text in depth reveals unsuspected and various points of encounter with group psychology (8).

In Jung’s thought Individuation and the Collective are a pair of opposites in constant reciprocal relation; in ‘On the nature of the Psyche’ he states:

To one familiar with our psychology, it may seem a waste of time to keep harping on the long-established difference between becoming conscious and the coming-to-be of the self (individuation). But again and again I note that the individuation process is confused with the coming of the ego into consciousness and that the ego is in consequence identified with the self, which naturally produces a hopeless conceptual muddle. Individuation is then nothing but ego – centredness and autoeroticism. But the self comprises infinitely more than a mere ego, as the symbolism has shown from of old. It is much oneself, and all other selves, as the ego. Individuation does not shut one out from the world but gathers the world to oneself. (Jung 1947/54, para 432, my italics)



1.In my opinion, the reference to Psychic Reality constitutes a particularly pregnant key to the comparison between Jung and Bion. I developed this concept in a paper entitled The Psychic Reality between individuation and transformation in O given at the A.R.P.A. National Conference ‘C.G. Jung e W.R. Bion: alla ricerca del Sé’, Lucca,10 September 2022 (in press)

2. << Parthenope Bion, who practiced as a psychoanalyst in Turin, told me personally that his father knew Jung’s thought well and greatly appreciated it>> states Augusto Romano, in ‘Music and Analysis’ (2019, footnote 95), opening lecture of the 2019 Academic Year of the Italian Association of Analytical Psychology (AIPA) (text available on the AIPA website, my translation)

3. Over time, this interest from the so-called ‘Gruppologi’ has been expressed in various conferences, seminars, and publications. Just a few examples: Claudio Neri himself, in 1999, together with Alessandro Bruni, invited the Jungian analyst Giuseppe Maffei to hold a lecture on the comparison between Jung’s and Bion’s thoughts at the Centre ‘Il Pollaiolo’ in Rome (later published as Bion e Jung in Maffei G. (2001) Le metafore fanno avanzare la conoscenza?Milano: Vivarium). In the context of the CRPG (Centro Ricerche Psicoanalisi di Gruppo) in Pisa Maria Bruna Dorliguzzo organised (2016) a conference on the comparison between Jung and Bion, in which I too participated (proceedings published in Psicoanalisi e Metodo, 2018, Pisa: ETS) In addition, of course, to Stefania Marinelli’s invitation to edit this issue of ‘Funzione Gamma’.

4. The ‘official’ ostracism of so much of the Freudian world towards Jung’s work was not healed even with Wallerstein’s initiative of the late 1980s on the ‘common ground in psychoanalysis’. Which instead allowed the Psychoanalytic Society to get closer to the so-called ‘neo-Freudians’ or ‘culturalists’ (followers of Sullivan, Karen Horney, Fromm, and others), partly closing a deep-seated wound in the USA.

5. Giuseppe Maffei, starting from the concept of Psychic Reality, made an interesting comparison regarding the possible ‘mysticism’ of the two AA.: << […] Bion, somehow beyond Jung, proposes a mysticism that does not risk annulling the importance of small things. Ultimate reality, if I have understood it correctly, is not beyond psychic reality but is psychic reality itself in unison with O, which is not beyond it but instead constitutes it. Jung, in my opinion, on the contrary, kept open the possibility of a beyond of psychic reality itself>> (Maffei, 2001, p. 296, my translation and italics)

6.<< Similarly in psychoanalysis: when approaching the unconscious – that is, what we do notknow, not what we don’t know – we, patient and analyst alike, are certain to be disturbed. […]. In every consulting room there ought to be two rather frightened people: the patient and the psychoanalyst. If they are not, one wonders why they are bothering to find out what everyone knows>> (Bion, 1974b, p.10)

7. Therefore, it seems curious, at first glance, that one of the pioneers of group psychoanalysis, Trigant Burrow (an American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who coined the very term ‘group therapy’), was first analyzed by Jung himself, the beginning of the last century.

8. as stated by Zanasi & Pezzarossa (1999).



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Stefano Carrara. A psychiatrist, psychotherapist, and analytical psychologist, he is a full member of the Associazione Italiana di Psicologia Analitica Psychology (AIPA) and the International Association for Analytical Psychology (IAAP), and an associate member of the Istituto Italiano di Psicoanalisi di Gruppo (IIPG). He serves on the editorial boards of the scientific journals Rivista di Psicologia Analitica and Psicoanalisi e Metodo. He has worked for more than 30′ years as a psychiatrist in the Italian NHS and has been an adjunct professor of Dynamic Psychology and Psychotherapy Interventions in the graduate courses in Psychology at the School of Medicine of the University of Pisa. He lives and works in Leghorn, Italy.

Piazza G. Matteotti 40, 57126 Livorno (Italy).