Jean Kirsch

John Weir Perry MD: A Man in Search of the Origins of Love

I propose a paper about the work of John Weir Perry, MD, the first graduate of the newly formed Jung Institute in Küsnacht, Switzerland. Perry had met Jung 12 year earlier when Jung and his wife Emma had visited America, to stay in his family home in Providence, Rhode Island. As the son of an eminent Bishop of the Episcopalian church, young Perry had been profoundly curious about the connections between religion and psychology, with a special interest in the origins of love. He became a physician and served in China as a conscientious objector during WWII. After the war’s end, he went to Zürich where Jung arranged individual study with him while he analyzed and studied with C.A. Meier and Marie-Louise von Franz. Feeling a need for additional training in psychiatry after his years in Zurich, he studied psychiatry in University of California, San Francisco. He joined with Drs. Joseph Henderson and Joseph Wheelwright to found the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco, where he was a popular analyst and teacher from 1950 through 1989, when he was suspended from membership for unprofessional behavior; Perry’s belief in the affirming power of love for psychic transformation and wholeness led to experiments with sexual intercourse with select female patients. I will base my paper upon my professional relationship with John Perry, his unpublished autobiography, “The Life of a Limnar”, and his 1970 paper in the Journal of Analytical Psychology, “Emotions and Object Relations.” Among analytical psychologists, the fact of Perry’s boundary violations eclipsed his contributions to studies of emotion. I will offer a hypothesis of how this came about with the aid systems theory and the strange attractor.

Finally, I will bring forth one of Perry’s most valuable theoretical contributions, his concept of the bipolar complex, which is central to furthering Jung’s initial insights at the Burghölzli Clinic about the structure and function of the psyche. Perry’s observations and empathic treatment of young patients experiencing a psychotic break were based upon his theory of emotion and object relations, which I hope to illuminate with a further extension of the concept. I will use brief clinical vignettes, when appropriate, to illustrate the dynamics involved.


Jean Kirsch, MD is a Jungian analyst practicing in Palo Alto, California. A graduate of the University of Alaska and of Stanford University School of Medicine, she is a member and past president of the C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco, where she serves on the faculty of the analytic training program.

Jean Kirsch with Murray Stein edited "How and Why We Still Read Jung" and she is the author of several articles and reviews in a variety of Jungian journals from 1993 to the present. Her most recent publication in the Journal of Analytical Psychology is “A personal commentary on J.W. Perry, M.D., and introduction to “Reconstitutive process in the psychopathology of the Self.”(JAP Vol 66, No. 2. p 221-220)


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