Welcome. In this space, I interrogate questions of existence, examine why we are the way we are, and wonder aloud about what it means to be human, all to encourage answering the question: How do I want to live? Past posts can be read HERE.
As a child, Christiana Morgan understood that she had a soul, and that within that soul was a truth. Yet she did not have any idea how to access that truth, or whether it was even possible. She was in near-constant turmoil.
Now, at age 28, she is being taught how to drop into the center of her soul by her therapist, Carl Jung, through a technique known as “trancing.” Once inside the depths, he leads her to access the story roots that code her unconscious self and urges her to capture what she discovers there in drawings and text. While she’d come to consult with Dr. Jung about her complicated erotic entanglement with Dr. Henry “Harry” Murray, both she and Jung have discovered that the unconscious part of herself—from which she’s felt estranged since childhood—holds something larger than one woman ought to contain.
Jung is astonished by the revelations lying at the base of Christiana Morgan’s being. She is revealing things unlike anything anyone has shown him before—indeed unlike anything anyone had ever seen until that point. He understands that what exists inside Christiana’s mind is a modern feminine self, a woman of primality and openness; she’s in touch with her sensuality and unafraid of her own sexuality and erotic nature. The images she brings forth are, to Jung, symbolic—archetypes that aren’t so much of Christiana’s nature, but of the universe. The universe, it seems to him, lives as a permanent crest inside the body of Christiana Morgan.
The images and words she captures from beneath the surface begin to accumulate, and in just less than a year, she has amassed 1,000 pages of material she calls the “Analytical Diaries.”
Before we continue, I momentarily need to step out of the story for a quick primer on Jung’s definitions of psyche and archetype.(1)
Jung believed that the human psyche was devised of three components: the EGO (the conscious mind), the PERSONAL UNCONSCIOUS (memories, including those that have been suppressed), and the COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS (the breadth of knowledge and experience that humans all share).
The structure of the psyche, he believed, is made up of archetypes that are innate within each of us. They exist as the foundation for how we experience our nature as human beings; they are the way we express our experiences. Every one of us shares these four major archetypes—the Persona, the Shadow, the Anima/Animus, and the Self. They are symbolic characters, each one playing a role in personality. Just as some of us are dominant in our right-hand, and others in our left, each person is dominant in one specific archetype. While the archetypes cannot be seen, they can be extrapolated from symbols within art, religion, dreams, and literature.
The Persona is the presentation of ourselves to the world. (For astrology lovers, think of the persona as your rising sign.) We all wear an assortment of social masks for every social situation and within a variety of groups. Our persona is a reflection of how we’ve been raised to adapt to the world in order to fit in. We use it to project how we’d like people to see us and to telegraph to others who we believe ourselves to be. Our persona is our leading role; it’s how we play ourselves in the movie of our lives.
What lives underneath the persona is the Shadow self—this is our primitive nature, which embodies our weaknesses, instincts, desires, and shortcomings. Our Persona tries to shield our Shadow so that we can continue to adhere to expectations, and not stand out. While our Persona is our conditioned self, our Shadow is our primal self, the part we’re taught is shameful—the dark side of the ego. The Shadow appears in our dreams as symbols: murderers, tsunamis, crashing airplanes, etc. The Shadow side of ourselves can be frightening, which leads many people to deny this part of themselves and project their Shadow self onto others: For example, a cheating spouse who is excessively jealous begins to accuse his spouse of cheating.
The Anima is the unconscious, or inner, feminine side in men, and The Animus is the unconscious masculine side in women. Unlike the Persona, which we curate, the Anima/Animus is not a presentation of self but rather a representation of our “true self.” The communication between all of our “true selves” is what Jung called “The Collective Unconscious.”
The fourth major archetype is The Self: Within each of us lives the unconscious and conscious experiences. The Self is the integration of these two parts; it’s our wholeness and totality. We begin to realize who we are as people through a process called individuation—the stage of development when we move away from our parents toward our own independence.
Now BACK TO THE STORY:
The archetypes and psychic formations that Jung created form the full scope of all human beings, but they did not all exist inside any one person. Yet, this young woman Christiana Morgan sits before him, handing him the universality of all experience. The images—of goddesses, red horses, mandalas, pagan gods, Pan, Demeter, death, skulls, white horses (2) and more—are imbued with messages whose meaning only Jung seems to understand. What exists within her is not personal to Christiana, but rather acts as a core principle that applies to all people. Jung sees her as a conduit for the nature of women.
The influence of Christiana Morgan and her visions cannot be overstated. Psychology was, until this moment, an entirely masculine domain. But embodied inside this single woman was a landscape that Jung freely trod, as he developed his psychology of women and theories about their imagination. Jung went on to develop a four-year seminar based on what Christiana Morgan surfaced from her core self, calling them the “Vision Seminars.” While he never named the patient upon which this seminar was created, he did state that “there is material for the next 200 to 300 years. These visions represent the psychology of our time.” In short, Christiana Morgan was, in the truest sense, a pioneer.
Just as Jung considers Christiana Morgan as someone who inhabits the entire spectrum of human archetypal expression, so too does Christiana feel the same about the psychologist Harry Morgan. The two are both Ego and Shadow in equal measure, drawn more to the unhealthy aspects in the other than to the grounded nature that surely exists there as well.
In 1925, Harry takes a position as a research associate at Harvard University. Despite Jo Murray’s reservations, Harry invites Christiana to join him as his research assistant. At first she declines, remaining in Zurich to continue her work with Jung. But before long, Jung appears to become disquieted, even apprehensive at the ways in which Christiana’s access to the underworld threatens to supersede his, while becoming more attracted to her, which startles him.
His longing for Christiana creates a new triad, mirroring the one she’s come to him to help solve. Despite being the “It” psychologist of the time, even Jung is weak before his shadow self; unwilling it seems, to face the discomfiting longings simmering beneath his persona. Instead of recognizing his countertransference, the doctor callously casts her off into the world in a way he knows will traumatize her, by insisting she bear another child.
Christiana is incensed by Jung’s abrupt, condescending manner. She leaves Zurich feeling disillusioned, and joins Harry as part of the burgeoning staff of the Harvard Psychological Clinic. The two are so electrified by each other’s intelligence that it entangles them even more. Their intensity is such that they wish to create a third entity; to give rise to what they called “the highest philosophy.” So dedicated are they to the realization of their synergy that they build a symbol to represent their mission to go beyond the reconciliation of opposites. The symbol is a physical building, a Tower on the Marsh.
The archetypal visions she had in Zurich become as much a part of her reality as her dream-state, and she feeds the excesses of her desire for Harry into ritualistic bacchanalian delight that soon crosses over into destruction. It is at the Tower on the Marsh that they explore each other’s sexuality through psychodrama and ritual, communicating with one another in public using colors and symbols only they can decode.
To disguise their identities they refer to themselves in writing as Mansol (Henry) and Wona (Christiana). Through ceremony, they explore all that is dark and repressed in the other’s unconscious. They are unbounded, aggressive, perverse, sadistic, exploring every forbidden sensation, annihilating one another’s superegos. In today’s parlance, they are “trauma bonding.”
As she’d inadvertently done for Jung, Christiana’s visions inspire Harry not only in erotic role-play, but in their work together. When they are not indulging their primal sexual appetites in the external world, Christiana and Harry are working hard on a project of internal interrogation. They are so obsessed with mining the deepest layers of personality, they become focused on discovering methods that will bring people’s core preoccupations to the surface. They know the repressed fantasies that live inside themselves, but what about other people’s? What is unknown inside everyone else, and how can they access it?
There are two modalities that psychologists use to assess personality: objective testing and projective testing. Objective testing is standardized, unaltered by rater bias, meaning that the outcome or result is not affected by the psychologist’s unconscious beliefs. Projective tests, whose intentions are to capture the underlying personality traits, capture answers that are highly subjective. This is the type of test that Christiana and Harry were creating.
Images, they understand, can tell a story. Perhaps asking people to tell a story about ambiguous and unsettling images might elicit the storyteller’s inner world. Obviously, the images themselves need to have people in them; namely, a stand-in for the viewer themselves—someone with whom they can identify. There needs to be a hero and a sense of dilemma, something that stirs the viewer’s emotional state, yet vague enough that the test-taker can still rely on their own imagination. (3)
With these goals in mind, the two of them begin perusing magazines and journals, amassing so many that periodicals begin to take over the Harvard Psychological Clinic, lining the hallways and piling upon all available surfaces. From these thousands of choices, they practice on friends and associates to winnow down the images that best evoke associations. Once they have a workable selection, Christiana redraws them. Some of her own original work also gets included.
Integrated into the integrity of the test is the residue of the sadistic and ritualistic erotic exploits of Christiana and Harry, their obsessive preoccupation with the darkest parts of the Shadow self, as well as the trance work Jung had conducted with Christiana. All of these are among the major influences in the creation of what will become the Thematic Apperception Test, which we still use today. Despite not being a credentialed psychologist, her contribution to the world of personality testing is instrumental; her visions and drive to get to the root of herself help pave the way for personality testing—whose purpose is to capture a person’s personality through their unconscious.
The complete version of the test contains 31 cards with pictures on them. The subject is asked to tell a story for each picture that is presented to them, including the following: 1) What has led up to the event? 2) What is happening at the moment? 3) What are the characters feeling and thinking? 4) What is the outcome of the story? The examiner assures the patient that there is no right or wrong answer but tells them their stories should have a beginning, a middle, and end. The psychologist will tell the patient that they should say what led to the situation depicted in the picture and how everything will turn out in the end.
The personality that the test-taker gives to the main character will be interpreted as their own. The other characters will typically be interpreted as family or colleagues, and their relationship with the main characters in the story will be considered as the test-taker's typical relationship with other people.
The test-taker's complete answer for each card will be noted, presumably on tape. Basically, everything they say and do will be recorded, including stuttering, tone of voice, posture, twisting hands, exclamations, and so on. It will be noted if the test-taker seeks eye contact with the psychologist, or hesitates when looking at particular pictures.
For accurate results, the TAT must be interpreted in the context of the subject's personal history, age, sex, level of education, occupation, racial or ethnic identification, first language, and other important characteristics. However, it also means that the results are at the discretion of the evaluator’s subjectivity.
While the outcome of projective tests rests with the evaluator, the circumstances of the testing environment, including the emotional landscape of the test-taker are often overlooked. There is always a power dynamic; the test-taker is always in someone else’s hands. How reliable and valid can a test be that disregards the interior workings of the people in the room, or the dynamic that exists between the two people in the room?
The test itself took around ten years for Christiana and Harry to complete, evolving during the 1930s and early ’40s. The first introduction to the “Morgan-Murray Thematic Apperception Test” (as it was originally called) was a research paper published in 1935 by Christiana Morgan and Harry A. Murray. Yet, in 1943, the version that was published was by Harry A. Murray and the Staff of the Harvard Psychological Clinic. There was no mention of Christiana.
The publication of The Thematic Apperception Test marked the beginning of Christiana’s professional life being relegated to the margins of the lives of the men she loved and helped. Following the publication of the test, Christiana, who drank in excess for years, began to struggle with health problems, like high blood pressure. The only treatment at the time was a radical sympathectomy–an irreversible procedure that removes ganglia from the sympathetic nervous system. The surgery left her hobbled and in pain.
On a trip to the Virgin Islands with Harry, Christiana died in the shallow waters on a beach in Saint John. While no cause of death was stated, Harry gave conflicting accounts of what happened, but the consensus is that she ended her life.
Christiana Morgan has been mostly relegated to the marginalia of the lives of the men she loved and helped. Despite wanting to be “carried out of time into seclusion, out of the present and into timelessness,” (4) Christiana Morgan should be remembered for her contributions to the field of personality testing, and for being the only person capable of inspiring Jung to recognize the power of women.
Had you heard of Christiana Morgan before this? Are there any other figures from history you'd like to see resuscitated? Tell me in the comments!
SOURCES for Part 1 & Part 2 of this series.
Other things I read while writing this series: