An Intellectual Partnership: Jay Gonen and Mary Coleman

Paul H. Elovitz, Ramapo College and the Psychohistory Forum

Jay Y. Gonen was born on July 3, 1934, in the city of Haifa in the British Mandate of Palestine.  He has a BA from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem as well as an MA and a PhD from the University of Cincinnati in psychology.  He is the author of two psychohistorical books, A Psychohistory of Zionism (1975) and The Roots of Nazi Psychology: Hitler’s Utopian Barbarism (2000).  Dr. Gonen is currently working on two new books, The Psychological Origins of Law and The Duality of Jewish Psychohistory.

Mary Coleman was born on September 12, 1928, in Washington, DC.  She took her BA in political science from the University of Chicago, MA in economics from Johns Hopkins, and MD from George Washington University.  She did graduate training in neurology and has published extensively in that field.  Her social activism has included union organizing as well as work with C.O.R.E. (Congress of Rational Equality, 1950-1960), Physicians for Social Responsibility (1978-1982), and Physicians for a National Health Program (1993-1998).  She is currently working on the engagé, anti-war novel, Prisms of Identity.  The interview was conducted at Ramapo College on July 23, 2000.  Our thanks to Marnet Mersky Kelly for doing the draft transcription.

Paul H. Elovitz (PHE): Your marriage on May 12, 1990, was the first psychohistorical wedding I ever attended.  It was delightful to see two colleagues join together in matrimony and various intellectual endeavors.  I should note that you two are a study in contrast and similarity.  One was born in the U.S. to an old WASP family and the other was born in Israel and connected to an European intellectual tradition.  Each of you is committed to the life of the mind and scholarship.  Each of you has two children.  Both trained in the helping professions, neurology for Mary and clinical psychology for Jay.  Both of you have taught at various points in your careers and more recently retired to devote the rest of your lives to scholarship.

Mary Coleman (MC): In preparation for this interview, I thought about my family history and realized that my grandmother and grandfather were an intellectual couple, they both had PhDs.  I am a fourth generation intellectual, my great grandfather was an intellectual.

PHE: Jay, what brought you to psychohistory?

Jay Gonen (JG): In 1967 I got my PhD in psychology in Cincinnati.  The Six Day War broke out that year, but I didn’t go back to Israel to defend the country.  This brought up the question: In what sense was I still an Israeli?  I reached the conclusion that I was not and would stay in the U.S. for the rest of my life.  So I applied for American citizenship.  However, coming from Israel I was quite naturally interested in issues of Jewish history.  The Six Day War was portrayed as presenting the danger of a second Holocaust.  My PhD in psychology gave me a new set of glasses with which to look at history and current events.  With a diploma I was so much smarter than I had been before; after all, I had a document to prove it!  I wanted to analyze Jewish history in new ways.  The result was A Psychohistory of Zionism.  Because I was not in contact with colleagues, the book was all self-generated, stemming from a combination of life events, war, and a changing self-concept prompted by graduation issues.  The book was a consequence of my dialogue with myself, in the course of which I became a psychohistorian.  I was happy with the results.

PHE: I was quite impressed by A Psychohistory of Zionism.  The very idea that you can apply psychohistory to groups as well as individuals inspired me.  I also enjoyed learning more about Zionism.  Mary, what brought you to psychohistory and when did you come to it?

MC: At the end of World War II, as an adolescent horrified at the killing — the full extent of which was first coming to the light of day — not even my wise father, a history professor, could answer my questions about what caused war and why civilians and Jewish people were being exterminated.  No one seemed to know any answers.  I decided then to find out what causes group hatred and war.  In college, I took political science and found no answers there.  Then I took a master’s in economics and found no answers there, either.  I studied other fields with equal frustration.  I was about to give up when I heard about psychohistory.  At my first International Psychohistorical Association (IPA) convention, about 1980, I immediately realized that there was a new set of glasses that might provide some understanding of these basic questions.  I have been working on these issues ever since.  At the moment, I am in the process of writing my conclusions to my book on war about how shame and guilt are related to group hatred and war.

PHE: How did psychohistory help you understand war in a way your father, political science, and economics couldn’t?

MC: The basic answer to that is that war is a human endeavor which is crazy and you have to have a discipline to study the craziness to understand it.  Psychohistory, a discipline capable of understanding craziness, helps us understand war.

PHE: Obviously, you are not someone who enjoyed war.  I think of Ferris Kirkland, who unfortunately died in February, 2000.  As a soldier he enjoyed war and the triumph of a successful battle he helped win in Vietnam.  It strikes me that people can use psychohistory for different purposes in analyzing war: to work to eliminate war or to solve the problem of war and why America failed in Vietnam.

MC: I would say in Ferris’ defense that he had considerable nuance in style and understanding.  He invited me to lecture to a group of soldiers who were all quite troubled by the fact that we had to go to war.  Ferris was ambivalent about war.  I would not say that he enjoyed or glorified it.

PHE: Certainly, Ferris was ambivalent about war.  My reference to his enjoyment was based upon my recollection of one of the two lectures he gave to students here at Ramapo College.  In presenting to serious students in my War, Peace, and Conflict Resolution course, his tone was hesitant, measured, and even painful at times.  In contrast, when Ferris spoke to a History Club audience about military tactics used in a successful battle in which he participated in Vietnam, his tone was one of excitement and enjoyment. As a psychohistorian, I always note the emotional connections that people have to their subjects.  Nevertheless, I would agree that he was ambivalent about war and deserves credit for being one of a small number of scholars struggling to use psychohistory to lessen war.

MC: I just had a conversation with a psychohistorian friend, who said World War II was a “good war” — a common saying in the community.  “If there has to be war, at least World War II was a good war.”  I find that horrifying.  If you count the Japanese excursion into China as part of World War II, a hundred million human beings were killed.  How under any circumstances the word “good” could be applied to that much suffering is troubling.

PHE: In the mind of old soldiers who want to return to the simplistic times of their youth and those wanting a world in black and white, it was “a good war.”  Yet, I’m always suspicious of nostalgia.  When, a decade after my Army service (which I hated), I suddenly felt warm feelings towards my ill-fitting Army uniform, I said, “Oh, my God, this is how people join the Veterans of Foreign Wars and drink themselves into oblivion exchanging nostalgic stories.”

MC: I have a chapter in my book on the attitude of warriors who feel it was the “highlight of their life.”

PHE: I look forward to reading the chapter and the book.  Studying the craziness associated with the glorification of war is an important part of overcoming war.  Jay, you have observed warfare and perhaps been part of some of its craziness.  What are your thoughts about it and are they influenced by military service?

JG: I have some comments about war in my recent book, The Roots of Nazi Psychology.  War is a mixture of things.  People jump into the fray with the elation of omnipotence and an enormous oral greed.  They think that they are going to devour the loot of this world.  For them, war is a great border settler.  They are going to demarcate who gets disaster and who gets utopia.  The loser is supposed to get disaster, but the winner doesn’t always get utopia.  There is no question about war being a mixture of a lot of crazy stuff.
You asked me why I am interested in crazy things.  That is the whole topic of my book.  National Socialism was a crazy thing if ever there was one.  Yet, the biggest mistake one can commit is simply to dismiss it as something crazy without going into the era and movement, and examining their internal logic — as crazy as it might be.  There is always a logic in the madness and a system in the craziness.  Yes, I am interested in describing crazy phenomena in a systematized yet emotional and highly colorful way.  I try to be vividly immersed in such phenomena without losing my bearings and getting lost.  These are my personal predilections — probably the kind of personality characteristics contributing to push me towards psychohistory.

PHE: Did you have personal experiences with war?

JG: My involvement was minimal.  My only war experience was in the 1956 Sinai Campaign when, as part of the Israeli Army, I went to Rafah and El Arish.  Prior to that experience, during military exercises in the reserves I was what you might call the “Good Soldier Schweik.”  I was the last person to embody the new type of Jewish, Israeli warrior.  My military behavior included bending the rules — it could easily be the subject of a humorous movie.

I wasn’t “Mr. Fixed Bayonet” in the war — I was in communications.  We came right after the tanks when everything on the battlefield was still smoldering.  There were charred bodies and skulls chopped in half.  It was the type of sight that would turn your stomach, but mine was not upset.  It was war.  You see such things, but then you happen to run into a friend and go hunt for some Egyptian halvah.  Your appetite is not spoiled, you share a meal, because in the war situation your adrenaline level is so high that you have shifted to a different gear.  I remember that I felt manly and strong at my newly discovered ability not to be upset at the sight of blood and gore.  I knew that these were unforgettable experiences and I felt an increased sense of competence because of my ability to absorb the sights without being shaken up.
On the other hand, years later, I watched an autopsy in a veterans hospital for the first time in my life.  My appetite was killed for 24 hours.  Though the sight was nothing to compare with what I had seen in the Sinai Campaign, I wasn’t in the highly mobilized state of warfare, allowing me to brush things like that off.  Nowadays, I prefer thinking about how I was a joke of a soldier in the Israeli army who got away with a few shenanigans.

PHE: My own recollection of Army service includes putting a pebble in my boot so that I would be limping on a long march and wouldn’t have to be in the middle of a line of soldiers, but could straggle along at the end.  When I was assigned to Tank Company B and drove a tank, I felt like I was in a moving tomb filled with explosives and gasoline.  As I sucked in dirt in the driver’s seat, I realized that you die quickly in the tank corps.  By the next day I had talked my way out of that job.

JG: Maybe Michael Dukakis got a high out of riding in a tank, but you did not.

PHE: In the famous 1988 Presidential campaign picture of him driving a tank, Dukakis seemed like a little boy which did not help him get elected Commander in Chief.  How did your experience in war affect what you have done as a psychohistorian?

JG: My limited war experience did not change my basic attitudes towards war.  From day one, I was mad at the Israelis and Palestinians for not settling their differences diplomatically in a civilized fashion with decent compromises.  I always regarded war as a stupidity and defeat.  My brief brush with war didn’t change my basic attitude.

PHE: Mary, would you elaborate on your approach to war, starting with why you consider war to be so crazy?

MC: The main occupation of many women is raising children.  They raise sons, devoting an enormous amount of effort, and then send them off either to murder other people or to be murdered during a war. The main occupation of men is building or creating things.  I see a situation where many men only feel control over life by killing — by ending life.  Men have instituted this program of war because they cannot create life the way women experience the creation of life by giving birth.  Women are so life-oriented, yet the fact is that women go along with war.  Remember that women are half of every population and most populations get excited and are interested in war.  In the chapter, “Women and War,” I describe how women get sucked into the destruction of their own work in raising sons.  They are as responsible for war as are men.  No country can run a war if more than half the population (most women plus enlightened men) oppose the war.  I see war as a triumph of the macho world of men over the nurturing world of women.  In war there are always arguments as to whether you should save cathedrals or people.  Is it more important to save works of art than human beings?

PHE: As a historian, my impulse has been, however ambivalently, to save historical treasures.  Psychohistory has been curing me of going with some of these impulses.

MC: Wonderful!

PHE: What did you learn from medicine that affected your work in psychohistory and which is going into your book on war?

MC: On a superficial level, my experience in medicine is a contradiction to my work on psychohistory.  My main role in medicine has been to rescue some of the psychiatric illnesses that were being blamed on women based upon psychoanalytic theories.  I showed that they are, in fact, neurological-genetic, infectious, and toxic diseases rather than the result of child rearing.  Because my main work in medicine rejects psychoanalytic explanations, it is somewhat surprising I would come to use psychoanalytic tools to understand war.

PHE: In psychoanalytic training, I was taught about schizophrenogenic mothers unconsciously creating terrible mental illnesses in their children.

MC: At least in the United States, these ideas are now pretty much thrown out of the window.  I have been a factor in the rejection of these explanations.

PHE: From your tone, I would say very proudly a factor.

MC: I am very proud of this contribution.  It started in medical school when the psychiatrist lecturing said that autism was caused by bad mothering.  A student asked, “If the mother was responsible, how come the child had the symptoms of autism at birth?”  The lecturer announced that the autism was caused by the first woman nurse who slapped the baby.  I burst out laughing and then said to myself, “Someday!”  Just this month, the third edition of my medical textbook on autism will be published.

PHE: I know that the traditional treatments for autism based upon the psychoanalytic model haven’t been very effective.  How effective are treatments based on the biological model?

MC: Previous treatments, which forced parents to be psychoanalyzed, made the children and their parents worse.  The best treatment available today for all autistic children is the behavior conditioning educational mode.  But the main contribution which I, along with many others, have made in the field is that autism is not one disease.  It is a long series of diseases and each disease has to be specifically diagnosed and specifically treated.  Some of the diseases that present with autism are now medically treatable by diet, medicines, or in a couple of cases neurosurgery, but the majority of diseases that cause autism do not yet have medical therapies.

PHE: Jay, please tell our readers something about the basic ideas of A Psychohistory of Zionism?

JG: I focused on the timeless love for Zion by the sons of Israel with its oedipal components and its mystical attachment to the motherland of Zion (Israel).  I touched on the rebuilding of the land as part and parcel of the Zionist revolution.  Zionism rejected the traditional course of Jewish history, along with traditional Judaism, as only succeeding in keeping the Jews in exile and out of playing any active role in history.  I dealt with the suicidal Samson and Masada complexes.

I also examined the enormous narcissistic knockout punch delivered to Jews and Israelis by the Holocaust.  In terms of their psyche, it branded them with passivity as a fatal flaw — with some kind of congenital nebbish attitude exposing them to the worst vagaries of life.  It reinforced the notion that it was high time to reverse the course of Judaism.  The bookprobed the psychological issues of Zionism, especially the grab for omnipotence. That particular theme came to a head after I published the article, “The Israeli Illusion of Omnipotence Following the Six Day War.”  (Journal of Psychohistory 1978 Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 241-272)  These were the issues I was dealing with then.

Currently, I am coming back to some of these same issues, as well as dealing with some new ones.  I am contemplating writing another book, The Duality of Jewish Psychohistory, on Jewish history focused on an analysis of the basic tenets of Judaism from a psychological point of view.  It will take some time.
At the moment, I am living and breathing Maimonides, A Guide of The Perplexed.  I was Professor Shlomo Pines’ star pupil in 1960 when we just flew away with Maimonides.  I am rereading Maimonides and his commentators as well as reading recent scholarly assessments of him.  I am doing all of this because Maimonides treats issues touching upon central themes and problems in Judaism both before and after his time.  To encompass all I have in mind, I will have to deal with philosophical, mystical, political, psychological, Biblical, and Talmudic approaches.  It is no easy matter to analyze a mosaic like this, with dominant themes stretching across centuries.  I am interested in the psychological baggage that accompanies each dominant theme and the historical developments catapulting each theme into the forefront of the zeitgeist.  That for me is group psychohistory.

PHE: Tell us more about group psychohistory.

JG: Group psychohistory is an analysis of the dominant, prototypical themes in a group’s life (or lore) across generations, as well as an analysis of the different factors which contribute to bringing each of these themes into prominence and action at a particular time.  There are different themes at different times, depending on the connection of historical, political, and cultural developments sometimes referred to as the spirit of the times.  All of these must be taken into account.  Group psychology is like plunging into a multidimensional grid.

PHE: Mary, in trying to understand war, have you focused primarily on individual or group motivation?

MC: War is a group behavior and, like all group behaviors, it has a beginning, middle, and end. There are ways of predicting when something is going to happen in a group.  However, I have focused to a small extent on violence, which is an individual action, and its neurological/biochemical basis in an effort to understand how people can be violent.  The psychological and social science tools turn out to be much more useful than the physiological tools in understanding individual violence, even though it is often limited to people with biological brain illnesses.

PHE: Because you have helped me to understand genetic elements in human behavior, I want to explicitly ask: Are you saying that war has biological and chemical components determining we should go to war?

MC: No, I don’t think that war has a biological component that is determinative in any sense.

PHE: So, you are saying it is there but not determinative?

MC: Aggression/killing is a phenomenon that is documented as starting literally millions of years ago between two different kinds of dinosaurs.  Killing for food is a different matter.  The amount of war is related not to how violent the particular, individual participants are, but to population density, cultural phenomena, identity, values, and sometimes economic factors.  In other words, it seems to me that determining the causes of war is in the realm of the social sciences rather than biology.

PHE: What are the specific tools you found in psychohistory to help with your struggle to understand war?

MC: As far as psychohistory goes, it was the understanding of shame and guilt as applied to group phenomena.  Shame, which is always negative, leads to violence in these group phenomena.  Guilt is a very fascinating human concept which has both positive and negative sides.  Nonviolence is based on using guilt to change politics without violence.  One of the things I have explored in great detail is how groups use both shame and guilt to determine whether they are going to become warlike or not.

PHE: Please give us an example of how shame and guilt can determine the outcome of warlike situations.

MC: Gandhi’s life is a dramatic example of how you can use guilt to prevent massive violence and civil war. In the course of his nonviolent struggle for Indian independence from the British Empire, at Amritsar in 1919, the British killed 379 and wounded 1,137 people at a peaceful, political, gathering.  Gandhi used his satyagraha technique, called the demonstrations off, guilt-tripping the British for years over these 379 dead people.  Basically, after many years, the British couldn’t stand to hear about it one more time, so they gave up control of India, the richest province in their empire, without being militarily driven out.  Of course, there were a lot of other historical factors at work, but guilt-tripping was the vital ingredient.

PHE: Are you saying that guilt is stronger than bullets and in fact controls bullets?

MC: I’m saying it is very complex and very interesting.  A similar example of the use of guilt and shame occurred with the use of nonviolence under Hitler.  In 1943, during the height of the war when the Nazis were attempting to cleanse Germany of all Jews, remaining Jewish men in Berlin married to non-Jewish women were jailed in a separate facility from other Jews.  More than one thousand non-Jewish wives circled the Rosenstrasse detention center loudly calling for the release of their husbands, despite being ordered away by SS troops. Goebbels decided to release 1200 Jews, mostly men, but also a few Jewish women.  So, even in the extreme situation of Hitler’s capital in wartime, nonviolent action made a difference on one occasion.

PHE: Mary, what is your source for this extraordinary incident?

MC: The incident is included in Gene Sharp’s three-volume book, The Politics of Nonviolent Action (1973).  This is the bible of nonviolence. I also recommend Eric A. Johnson, Nazi Terror: The Gestapo, Jews, and Ordinary Germans (1999).

PHE: Jay, because we’re speaking about the Nazis, I’d like you to tell me about your recently published book, The Roots of Nazi Psychology: Hitler’s Utopian Barbarism, reviewed by George Victor in our September issue.

JG: Included in my A Psychohistory of Zionism was a chapter on the Holocaust written from the perspective of Jews and their reactions to it.  It is a gruesome chapter which was hard to swallow, causing me to have the psycho-physiological reaction of nausea. Nevertheless, my curiosity was evoked by the issue of how on earth this could have occurred.  I wanted to know from the point of view of the perpetrators rather than from the viewpoint of the victims.

Why, in the name of self-defense or whatever, would you want to do something so horrible as the Holocaust to other people?  What kind of psychology could have motivated you?  So, I was interested in the psychology of Nazis.  I also developed an interest in examining psychologically another issue that I had become aware of in writing my first book: the fear of Jewish fascism present in the Jewish settlement in Palestine.  I wondered: What was there in fascism that looked alluring but dangerous to Jews?  Could it possibly relate to some older issues in the Jewish tradition? I thought that I had found the answer to that in notions of leadership, mostly of the Italian fascists, which could have inspired some of the Jews in Palestine.  It did relate to older issues in Judaism: fascination with the idea of having kings as strong leaders yet being warned by the prophets not to take that route.  They took it nevertheless. I thought that what proved alluring and dangerous in biblical times could explain the contemporary Jewish fears of the dangers of the Jewish attraction to fascism.

After delving into fascism I soon realized that German Nazism was altogether a different kettle of fish: a category by itself, more mysterious, much more barbaric and horrible than Italian fascism ever was.  So, since 1970, I developed an interest in the entire phenomenon.  I have been thinking about it on and off, reading books about it, and Hitler’s writings and speeches.  Mulling it over in my mind, I developed a kind of group psychohistorical grid, as a detailed framework into which I plugged the different components to get a sense of what it was all about.  Needless to say, this endeavor required understanding not only of the various underlying psychological components of Hitler’s ideology, but also their connection to German history.  The Hitlerian notions did not come out of the blue. They took hold because there were old roots.

PHE: Returning to the issue of your similarities as a psychohistorical couple, what are some of the values you hold in common?

JG: Neither of us is into nationalism or religion.  We are secularists devoted to the human race at large.  I could be called, in the words of Isaac Deutscher, “a non-Jewish Jew.”  Some might even call me “a rootless cosmopolitan.”  Mary and I feel more like members of the human race than members of any particular group.  We do share this common human identity though some people think this may be a pipe dream.
Turning to a very different area, we both love 20th-century classical music with a passion and we live in the right metropolitan area [New York] for it.  This July we had the pleasure of attending three concerts devoted to the work of Olivier Messiaen, that were a great treat for us.  People who exalt in 20th century classical music don’t grow on trees and may be hard to find.  But we found each other.

MC: I would add something else we share.  We both suffer from grandiosity, having a tremendous interest in solving huge problems.  In Jay’s case, Nazism and the whole of Jewish religious history.  In my case, the causes of war.  These topics are gigantic, but we both share the point of view that anything can be understood in the end if you work hard enough.

PHE: These are certainly big topics that you help make understandable by many small actions.  Let me give an example.  The Psychohistory Forum’s Research Group on War, Peace, and Conflict Resolution used to have a working luncheon at the annual June IPA meetings.  Though you always insisted you did not do much, Mary, you were such a key participant that when the IPA ceased to be a part of your and Jay’s yearly ritual, these luncheons ceased.  Without your inspiration and energy, one could easily just shrug and, like Candide at the end of Voltaire’s story, prefer to tend one’s garden because there one can make a difference.  You seem to have organized much of your life around the issue of preventing war.  Would you tell our readers how you have applied this to the raising of your children?

MC: I would be glad to discuss it, but I don’t think I have organized my life around that issue at all.

PHE: Please explain.

MC: I am not a war buff at all — the type that reads books about the battles of World War II or re-enacts Civil War battles. I abhor war. My life has been centered around having loads of fun as well as around my children, my patients, my medical research, and liberal politics.  My reluctant interest in war came from the realization, at the end of World War II, that wars at that point of history appeared to happen once every generation. This means that later in my life, when I hopefully would become a mother, I might be asked to send a son to the army to deliberately be shot at or, equally bad, be trained to murder complete strangers from another country.  This possible horror in an otherwise great future was not acceptable to me as a young adult.  Because this is a psychohistorical interview, I will discuss what I have done about that war question but in terms of time spent and thought given, war was and is a necessary but minor theme in my life.

I have three hobbies, only one of which is the psychohistory of war. My second hobby is classical music.  I compose songs in the style of 20th-century classical music.  The song cycle I am working on now is called “Songs of Synesthesia.”  My third hobby, which Jay and I share, is studying ancient Middle Eastern languages.  I am fascinated by the Sumerian people.  Theirs was the most creative culture in human history.  In all three cases, we came to these hobbies independently before we met each other. Psychohistory is Jay’s major theme. I was studying Akkadian when I met him, and he was planning to start the study of Aramaic, which is a related language.  Instead, he joined me in studying Akkadian and Sumerian.  Together, right now in fact, we are working on a book on the oldest medical texts in the world, which were written in a combination of the Akkadian and Sumerian languages.

PHE: That sounds wonderful.  I’m looking forward to your sharing some of your knowledge of the ancient Mesopotamian world on January 30, 2001, at the Psychohistory Forum meeting on the psychological origins of law.  Mary, let us turn to how your ideas affected the raising of your children, which took place prior to your marriage to Jay.

MC: My two grown sons’ fathers are Jewish by ethnic identification, but not religion.  I am Christian by ethnic identification, but not religion.  In our families, when the children were 13 years of age, on my side there were confirmations and on the fathers’ sides bat mitzvahs and bar mitzvahs.  Instead of the usual religious preparation, I devised a course for each of my sons, who were six years apart in age, which they nicknamed “the Sunday Night Candle.”  I taught it on Sunday night and each child got an individual course on the ethical questions religion usually addresses.  They learned exactly what I thought about it to answer the legitimate question all children have of where they come from.  I started with hominids, and then went through the whole history of evolution and of humans, lingering a little extra on the history of Jews because my children are half-Jewish.  At these Sunday night sessions, I always read one anti-war poem and talked about nonviolence.  It was crucial that I explain to them how important nonviolence is to me.  To reinforce this, I created a family holiday on Gandhi’s birthday (October 2). In our home this was one of the biggest holidays of the year.  We celebrated the fact that you can change politics, even in non-democratic societies, without killing people.  The Sunday Night Candle course started at the age of six with graduation at age 13, when their cousins on both sides of the family had different kinds of celebrations. Their friends attended the graduation. The only adults present were the graduate’s father and myself. It was a big party where they got to drink champagne and liquor for the first time and I made it into a very big deal, so they would have something comparable to what their cousins experienced.

PHE: Please tell me some more about your family’s unusual course.

MC: I explained to my sons that most people in most families are mystical in a religious way, but that our family is not, and that the effect of the candle I always lit during the hour of the course is an example of mysticism.  I described what I knew of mysticism, including that mysticism is a normal part of any human brain.  I told them how I use mysticism in music, sex, and all kinds of wonderful things, but that I don’t use it in group identification and religion because I don’t believe in those things.  The course answered questions such as why you don’t cheat in school and all the ethical issues a child is entitled to know about.  It laid out my point of view and my values, explaining that we are all human beings and social animals rather than solitary mammals and that helping others gives us deep satisfaction.  As extremely social animals, the opinion of our friends and our community is important to us so we always want to work to improve the society in which we live.  I am thrilled about how my children have developed.  Instead of rebelling, they both work for the homeless and have done many other admirable things.  They are good human beings.

PHE: This is good to hear.  As the mother of two sons, as a mother who passionately doesn’t want there to be war, how did you deal with the fact that they might be drafted?  Depending on their ages, this was the reality they faced, even if it was only the required registration should a draft be reinstated.

MC: Though I dealt with it effectively, I am not willing to answer that question.

PHE: Regarding your opposition to war, the Quakers certainly come to mind.  What are your thoughts about their special role as pioneers in relinquishing certain traditional behaviors, including war?  I also think of their struggles against slavery and the subjugation of women.  They were way ahead of the curve of Western societal development.

MC: As far as war goes, the Quakers are the only group in the world I know of who actively tried to prevent World War II. The Society of Friends (Quakers) in England were opposed to the harsh reparations provisions of the Treaty of Versailles which were imposed on Germans at the conclusion of World War I. They traveled to Germany, fed the starving people, and personally did everything they could to lessen German suffering.  If there had been enough Quakers, they might have made a huge difference in the atmosphere in Germany at the time.

I have tremendous admiration for the Quakers and find the difference between European and United States pacifist religious groups quite interesting.  The Quakers, Amish, and Mennonites all came from Europe to the British Colonies of North America between 1680 and 1740.  There were so few pacifist religious groups left in Europe that the left wing in continental Europe was almost completely Marxist/socialist in the 19th and 20th centuries.  By contrast, in the United States, there have been two major groups of people involved in the left-wing protests against war: those coming from a Marxist, socialist point of view and the pacifists who are generally Quakers and Mennonites.  When I used to picket for hours against the Vietnam War in front of the White House, I would break up the boredom by trying to visually differentiate Marxists/socialists from the pacifists.  Eventually, I got pretty expert in making the distinction based upon clothing.  (I myself was picketing as an individual, not as a member of a group.)

A fascinating thing is that the Amish, the most pacifistic people, were created and nurtured in a different century very near the same region (Munich) where Hitler created his Nazi movement.  Thus, the same general area of Germany produced extremes of the Left and the Right.

PHE: I am reminded that the political extremes sometimes come together: the Left and the Right often share rigidity and hatred of democratic government based upon compromise.  However, in America, right- and left-wing groups have been much more for democratic government than in Europe, although how much is rhetoric and how much is reality is always a difficult question to answer.

MC: The Amish are very hierarchical and patriarchal, making no apologies for their system.  When they first came to the United States, they actually allowed the Indians to kill them rather than resort to violence.  It is documented that on at least one occasion, they knew the Indians were coming to kill and scalp their families, yet they would not violate their religion’s prohibition on violence even though they had guns which they used to kill animals for food.  I have great admiration and amazement for their devotion to pacifism.

PHE: One of my friends, with whom I taught history at Temple University, was a convert to Quakerism as was his twin brother.  He insisted that the true Quaker pacifists were the converts and that those born as members of the Society of Friends tended to abandon their pacifism when it counted.  He cited Richard Nixon and the Pennsylvania Quaker farmers in the Civil War who fought for their farms against the invading Southern army.  Do you have any thoughts on this subject?

MC: The Quakers in the United States are divided into two different groups.  Nixon’s mother was part of a hierarchical Quaker group, very similar to other Protestants.  Most Quakers run a non-hierarchical meeting and are quite liberal.  I would say that the Quakers are the least fanatical about their pacifism among the pacifist religious groups.  What is most important is that they are a wonderful influence on our society.  On Capitol Hill, this tiny group helps hold down the military budget, generation after generation.

PHE: You are talking as someone who knows Washington quite well.  I am reminded that, while you presently live in Upper Grandview (part of Nyack) in New York State, where you have a glorious view of the Hudson River and the Tappan Zee bridge, you lived in different places most of your lives.  Jay, you were in the Chicago area for 19 years where you worked as a psychologist at the Veterans Hospital.  Mary, you lived and practiced in Washington, DC, for all of your 25-year medical career. I saw your beautiful home when you hosted a party for the IPA and when I gave a seminar on historical dream work to the psychohistory group you organized.  I remember chatting at the party with former Senator Fulbright, who had only been a name in the news to me before that occasion.  I was informed by your observations about how Washington politics works, especially the role of endless social events in the political process.  Do you have any thoughts about Washington you would like to talk about?

MC: It was quite dismaying to a person of my values to live in Washington, watching the influence of special interests on the legislative process.  The labor unions and Ralph Nader’s group were two small voices working for the people’s best interest against the phalanxes of special interest lobbyists on the wrong side of the issues over and over and over again.  In the liberal circles in Washington in which I used to socialize, I would be embarrassed to admit that I was a physician because the American Medical Association was the group that had originally developed those lobbying techniques.  They had a very bad reputation among my liberal friends.

PHE: Jay, what was it like in Chicago in terms of the intellectual and cultural communities?

JG: Chicago for me was not a place where I lobbied the government.  It has its universities and intellectual community, but in terms of my psychohistorical interest, I did not feel connected and was pursuing my own interests alone — as I have most of my life.  Chicago was a good place to live, with its theaters, orchestras, operas, museums, and varied culinary culture.  In many ways I enjoyed living there, though with only two years exposure to Manhattan, I find it is true that there is nothing like it. I enjoyed Chicago. I enjoy New York more.

PHE: What are your thoughts about the future of psychohistory?

MC: I see psychohistory and psychobiography as the long-term remnants of the religion of Freud.  In many respects, Freudianism is already in the process of being dismantled, especially where it applies to real medical illnesses — though it still exists in France.  French parents of autistic children are still psychoanalyzed which is a disgrace.  But I see Freudian concepts remaining because they are so powerful and interesting relative to so-called normal human behaviors such as groups who go to war, normal individuals who are creative, and people who have real life problems that need solving.

PHE: Mary, do you consider personal psychoanalysis to be part of the medical uses of Freud?

MC: The answer is No.  I think his ideas are a mixture of brilliant insights and idiotic theories jumbled together.  When Freud asks, “What do women want?”, my answer is, “Not to be demonized as mothers.”  The majority of mothers do a wonderful job of raising their children.  He is one proof of it himself.  In medicine, most of Freud’s theories were more negative than positive.  They held back the understanding of mental illness as a biochemical phenomenon.

PHE: Jay, do you agree with Mary on the issues of the value of medical psychoanalysis and Freudianism or do you have other light to shine on them?

JG: Well, I agree with her that Freudian psychology is losing some of its appeal — certainly in clinical practice.  I think more of it will be preserved in application to the arts, literature, and history.  As an American pragmatist, I accept any model that works.  I say fine to anyone starting with whatever model, even if it is not my type of psychodynamic approach, who arrives at useful, thought provoking conclusions.

Regarding my thoughts about psychohistory, I see it divided into the two major branches of psychobiography and group psychohistory.  It is a mistake to pit one against the other because they are not in opposition.  Not infrequently psychobiography, as it deals with the life of one subject, crosses over into the protagonist’s milieu (the group’s life), shedding light onto more generalized issues that relate to group psychohistory.  Group psychohistory is a questionable field to many academics and clinicians who are not sure just what it is.  People understand psychobiography as delving in depth into all sorts of life details of a single subject, including interpersonal relations.  However, when you say group psychohistory, people frequently don’t get it.  The only thing they might buy is the notion of national character which is not quite group psychohistory.

PHE: Why do you consider national character to be “not quite group psychohistory?”

JG: Studies of national character usually are focused on tests and measurements of personality traits so as to determine the modal personality within each culture.  Such studies tend to neglect the dynamic interplay of art, politics, religion, and ideologies in the group’s history.

I would like to see more works done in the realm of group psychohistory, because I think that on many life or death issues (not the least of which is war and peace) it is group psychohistory which exposes the arena in which all of these forces actually interact.  Certainly, I would definitely be happy to see all forms of psychohistory flourish.

PHE: We certainly need more group psychohistory, although I am sometimes troubled by people jumping, in its name, to broad and often erroneous generalizations about groups.  But this is a discussion for another time.  In the meantime, we have our Group Psychohistory Symposium in Clio’s Psyche.  (December, 2000, Vol. 7, No. 3, pp. 102, 141-155)  I want to thank the two of you for a most interesting afternoon.

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