Honoring the Ancestors: Jane and Jo Wheelwright, Part Four

Honoring the Ancestors: Jane and Jo Wheelwright, Part Four

Twenty four years ago this fall, my candidate group began our training to become Jungian analysts. We were the last group to meet with Jo and Jane Wheelwright, some of the first generation analysts from our Institute, meaning that they were analyzed by Jung. They were also two of the founding members and must have been in their early nineties at the time of the meeting.

I remember the early October seminar well. We were four women very excited to begin our candidacy at a time the Institute was in great flux. We had no idea of the extent of change to be. The old guard was leaving, and the new, not yet in place. Tom Kirsch, a senior analyst at our Institute and the son of the founding members of the Los Angeles Jung Institute, brought the Wheelwrights and together with them gave us a historic perspective of analytical psychology. I will not go into those details here, but I do want to talk about the Wheelwrights and some of their personal stories.

Jo was tall and lanky. He declared early on that he was “going off my rocker.” He wore a brown sport coat with leather around the cuffs, which I suspect he had had a very long time.

Jane was much shorter and a little plump, her hair thick and white. She talked slowly and never when someone else was talking. When you asked her a question, you had to wait. Then her clear, strong voice would begin.

In their stories about the early days with Jung, both were often critical of the women around Jung. “Animus hounds,” Jo called them. Women were the pioneers, they said, but they were “doing therapy as men. They were women being Jung.”

“Von Franz even had the gestures of Jung,” Jane added.

She said that her own salvation was that she was young at the time of Jung’s death, so she was forced to find her own way. When Jung died, she worked more from her feminine self.

I asked her what this meant in terms of her work. She said that she was “more real, more spontaneous and related.”

Jo said “the house of Emma Jung” made him feel safe. Jung’s consultation room was upstairs, the stairs “like a wind tunnel.” Both talked about how angry Jung would get. Jo described a time he witnessed a woman fall down the stairs, presumably pushed by Jung.

“Everyone says that I made that up,” he added, “but I distinctly remember it. I was climbing the stairs when I heard the consultation door open and then there was screaming, Get the hell out of here! and Plop! Plop! Plop! The woman ended up with her skirts over her head. I politely greeted her and went on up. Jung was agitated, saying that the woman just wanted to pick his mind for a book and he thought she came for analysis.” He said later Jung and this woman became friends.

The feminine was so present that evening. Sitting with these three women at the beginning of our training, I was impressed by the Wheelwrights with how important finding my own way would be. I just had no idea how hard! (the story being told in Farming Soul: A Tale of Initiation.)

Many years later colleague Naomi Lowinsky and I asked several Jungian analysts and teachers to write their own stories and how Jung’s work was a part of it. Those stories became the collection, Marked by Fire: Stories of the Jungian Way (Fisher King Press, 2012).

I would love to hear how the ancestors and/or mentors may have helped you find your path. Please comment below!