It is Spring 1916, and a teenage Christiana Morgan is in a close hold with her dance partner. She feels his body close to hers and the fire that is sparking between them. She moves with him, understanding the power of the life force energized in their dance—a dance that breaks her free from a desperate, dead place where her intellect and soul suffocate, a dance where she envisions true union with another human and even more—so much more.

In Claire Douglas’ 1993 biography, Translate this Darkness, Christiana is quoted writing in her diary, “Oh God, I want to feel, to really find myself in feeling” (57). This is the beginning of her ecstatic and tragic journey toward self. Born in Boston in 1897, Christiana was as much an icon of her time as she was a victim of the patriarchy that ruled it. Now just beginning to be understood as an important analyst, researcher, and contributor to the creation and development of the thematic apperception test (TAT) at the Harvard Psychological Clinic, which she helped establish, Christiana’s real contribution to feminist history was her personal vision quest and the cost she paid to live it. Christiana’s work and life set the groundwork for women in the field of psychology and influenced the birth of American psychology itself. Her story exposes the agonizing origins of feminism as well as the deepest expression of feminine magnificence.

Christiana Morgan, American artist, researcher, psychoanalyst, was born October 6, 1897, in Boston, Massachusetts and died at age 69 on March 14, 1967, in St. John, Virgin Islands.

She was married to William Morgan in 1919. They had one child, Peter Councilman Morgan, born in 1920.

Christiana also had a professional & romantic partner, Henry A. Murray (1893-1988) who was an American psychologist.

Her legacy includes: Tower on the Marsh, Rowley, Massachusetts; The Christiana Morgan Papers (1925-1974), Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), “A New Eve” Nude Statue of Christiana Morgan by Gaston Lachaise.

Christiana’s Visions

Images from Christiana Morgan’s visions. Melker, I. (2016). Revisiting the Visions of Christiana Morgan, ARAS Connections.

At the core of Christiana’s story is a period of nine months in her late twenties where she recorded her personal visions and fantasies in paintings and writing while living in Zurich, Switzerland. This process of revealing and recording her inner life was encouraged by C. G. Jung, her psychoanalyst between June and October 1926. Jung used this process of active imagination to bring his own unconscious material into consciousness. Similar to Jung’s Red Book, Christiana’s artistic manifestations of her unconscious world illuminated the shadow sides of herself, which she faced with rigor and determination. In her visions, Christiana encountered gods and goddesses, snakes and dragons, but also fertile eggs, rivers, mountains, and her own inner child. Her visions outlined the forces that oppose women’s authentic development, and she depicted an interior realm that was in opposition to what patriarchy proscribed. In one vision she wrote, “I came upon a barrier, a man with a woman above him and a woman below him lay across the path. The man had phalli for hands and a hand instead of a phallus” (Jung 882).

Christiana and Carl Jung

Little did Christiana know that between 1930 and 1934, Jung shared her private and personal visions without her permission in weekly open seminars. In his Vision Seminars, Jung analyzed Christiana’s imagery and text. Regarding the vision described above, Jung told his listeners, “You see, it was not a real man, he was in every part of phallic symbol, like one of those grotesque antique statues of Priapus, the phallic God” (882). When one of the female seminar participants asked if the phallic symbol could represent creativity, Jung responded, “Oh no, that is much too optimistic” (882). It was only after seminar participants began to figure out to whom the visions belonged that Christiana discovered their unauthorized use and demanded Jung cease and desist sharing her visions, to which he obliged, but not before his series of talks was canonized.

Through his own work with the unconscious, Jung came to believe that every man had an inner feminine side, which he called anima, and every woman had a male side, called animus. Considering the fact that women did not gain the right to vote in Switzerland until 1971, Jung’s ideas in 1930 that women could have important intellectual, spiritual, and emotional worlds that were equal to men were revolutionary. From today’s vantage point, however, we can see that while he did much to unleash and validate Christiana’s search for self, Jung’s own blind spots pressed upon her destructive belief systems, which kept Christiana nailed to the patriarchal cross.

Cover of Jung’s Vision Seminars where Christiana Morgan’s images and text were used without her permission.

Jung lived a polyamorous lifestyle. He was married to Emma Jung, a scholar who provided him with five children and a stable family environment, and, at the same time, he was romantically engaged with Toni Wolff, his creative/intellectual collaborator and spiritual companion. All three adults knew and accepted each other, at times with trepidation, in their triad. Jung exalted in both women’s unique personalities, which, to some extent, allowed them to exist outside of traditional female roles. However, their freedom only existed in relation to how it fed Jung’s brilliance, comfort, and curiosities within the constricting post-Victorian times in which they lived.

Jung took Christiana and her inner world seriously, which gave her permission to do so as well. This unto itself was radical for its time. When he began to work with Christiana, Jung intimated that she could exist at the center of her own triumvirate universe (as he did), with her husband, William Morgan, and her longtime lover, Henry (Harry) Murray, revolving around and fueling her powerful life force. However, because she was a woman, Jung ultimately could not see Christiana outside of standard gender roles, so instead encouraged her to be the anima to Murray’s animus. Jung told Christiana,

“We all have to do something collective—create something for the world. If a woman creates a child, then she is doing something collective for the next generation. If you create Murray now—make him a complete man, then you are doing something for this generation” (Douglas 150).

Herein lies the depth of the damage caused. Jung built up Christiana’s deeply feeling self only to relegate her to being in service to her lover’s needs. And so, the woman who as a little girl asked God to allow her to “find herself in feeling” (Douglas 57) poured everything she had, and everything she was, into her lover Harry.

Christiana as Analyst

Image from Christiana Morgan’s Vision Book – I knew I had become a tree. Melker, I. (2016). Revisiting the Visions of Christiana Morgan, ARAS Connections.

Christiana became a well-regarded and trusted lay analyst at the Harvard Psychological Clinic because of her personal studies of depth psychology at Cambridge University when she lived in England with her husband, and her first-hand knowledge of the power of the unconscious through her work with Jung himself. While Freudian theories still prevailed in the early days of the clinic with its constricting paradigms for women, this was a burgeoning time for Jungian approaches in psychology. In the early stages of the clinic, an eclectic group of analysts from many backgrounds gathered at the clinic for demonstrations of pathogenetic events under hypnosis, courses on abnormal psychology, and forums on the sexuality of women. There were, of course, men in the field who discussed Christiana’s visions and work with the unconscious as “worth discussing only as manifestations of pseudomasculinity”(Douglas 189). However, because the developing field of depth psychology openly sought innovation, women began to find ways to rigorously engage with its ideas and community. Christiana’s work as an analyst was collaborative, guiding the client toward building their sense of self-empowerment by way of understanding the meaning and significance of their neurosis. Rejecting the dictatorial style of the men around her, Christiana was known for her empathic and attuned mirroring of her clients, a technique we now know as being the most important aspect of all successful therapy.

The Tower on the Marsh

The Tower on the Marsh. https://www.towerofdreamsdoc.com/the-tower

Harry and Christiana built a tower for their romance, both literally and figuratively. In messages to each other in twin diaries, they each took on archetypal personas. She called herself Wona and he was Mansol. As Mansol, Harry wrote, “How did you know how to create me—to create us both in some new unity . . . I am linked to your destiny by unbreakable affinities . . .” (Douglas 178). And then, a month later, he wrote, “Remember I am talking facts. You could never have gone on this way without me. You are everlastingly dependent upon me. But you are the center, the re-creating fire and nourishing water”(Douglas 178). It is difficult to read these words and not feel Harry’s narcissistic suction of Christiana’s efforts, which he demanded for his own nourishment. And yet, Christiana gave herself willingly to their dyad and ignored inner impulses that told her Harry was a “snake in the grass” to whom she must supply ideas, “more and more of them”(Douglas 133).

Between 1936 and the mid-1940s, Harry and Christiana recorded their psychosexual rituals in an attempt to expose and objectively evaluate their sacred and profane fantasies in their co-authored Red and Gold Diary. Christiana wrote in the diary,

“My love is my God and I have no other God but him. His word is the law, and for one year I shall obey it. My God will create from my blood. I will give all my substance to his best . . . He will drink my blood, devour my flesh, ask for my last sacrifice, take all my spirit, possess me entirely”(Douglas 265).

Their Tower on the Marsh, located in Rowley, Massachusetts, was built as a replica of Jung’s tower at Bollingen. Here, Christiana and Harry explored gender and sex roles, exchanged clothes, and took turns acting as slave and master. They were imaginative and brazen in their attempts to banish puritanical repression. Their belief in Jung’s decree that conventional Christian values detract from true human expression buoyed their full-throttle dive into pleasure and pain. The couple believed that the union they were creating could have a major impact on the understanding of romantic relationships. They spent years developing their concept of the supreme dyad with much of Christiana’s time spent following a complex program of theoretical research outlined by Harry, which ultimately proved to be endless and soul-sucking. The book was never completed.

Wood carving designed by Christiana Morgan in the Tower on the Marsh https://www.towerofdreamsdoc.com/

As she did when she was young, during the last years of their relationship Christiana sought the heightened state of bodies dancing, as well as bodies in ritual, and bodies enacting dramatic myths of nymphs, animals, sin, and mercy. Although their intentions were earnest in these sadomasochistic seances, because they were human, they were not able to be completely honest with themselves, or each other, about the darker material being enacted. Christiana suffered from high blood pressure, drank copious amounts of alcohol, and continuously smoked cigarettes while Harry went on amphetamine binges. Ultimately, Harry admitted he could not be faithful to Christiana. After years of building their dyad on the promise of supreme union, Harry acquiesced to marrying Christiana (by then her husband had died, and he had divorced his wife) but matter-of-factly proclaimed that he was in love with his colleague, Nina Fish. On vacation in St. John, Christiana woke after a night of drinking and was met with her lover’s disdain. “You disgust me!” (Douglas 313) were the last words she heard from Harry. Later that morning, she drowned in the lagoon near their cottage.

Exploitation

You cannot tell Christiana’s story without telling the story of the men who simultaneously built her up and tore her down. Jung’s failure to notice his own countertransference with Christiana directed her toward supplication of her own greatness at the feet of Harry’s mediocrity. Jung said Christiana had “an extraordinarily one-sided development of her thinking function” (Robinson 206). To Jung, because Christiana was a thinker, she was too masculine. “You must become more of a woman” (Douglas 165), Jung told her in their final sessions together. Christiana confirmed this and took up the mantle.

Harry believed Christiana’s visions would lead them both into a mythical love. In a 1944 letter to Christiana, he wrote, “O My Beautiful, My Darling. You are going through hell for our Synergy, for our Proposition, for the sake of our past & of our future”(Douglas 246). During their relationship, he was able to produce important papers based on his work at the Harvard Psychological Clinic, partially because Christiana was happy to acquiesce to his request that she sit in the room with him as he wrote. However, the work Harry most wanted to complete—research on Herman Melville—he was unable to fulfill.

One of Harry’s studies at the clinic, conducted between 1959 and 1962, involved research on the effects of stress on subjects. One of the subjects was a young Ted Kaczynski, later known as the domestic terrorist, the Unabomber. As a part of this study, subjects were interrogated on the values they held most dear for long periods of time, then these values were turned against them in abusive tirades, which were recorded and played back to the subjects to gauge their embarrassment and shame. Harry unknowingly continued his shame work within his relationship with Christiana as he alternately put her on a pedestal and then berated her for not giving enough. A poignant representation of Harry’s juxtaposing perspectives is found in the ragged cardboard sign he nailed to a tree at Christiana’s memorial at the Tower on the Marsh. On it, he scrawled, “Christiana D. Morgan—Our imponderable Superanima”(Douglas 315). Christiana was haphazardly memorialized only as a tragic feminine inspirer.

Christiana’s Body of Work

Image from Christiana Morgan’s visions: Meeting the Great Mother. Melker, I. (2016). Revisiting the Visions of Christiana Morgan, ARAS Connections.

One of the more heartbreaking realities of Christiana’s suffering was the surgical treatment she endured for her high blood pressure, which led to, among other discomforts and dangers, her eyes to fill with blood. She underwent a radical sympathectomy procedure that cut the nerves away from both sides of her spine, saving her life but causing lifelong repercussions from a severed autonomic nervous system. This procedure was soon found to be so harsh that it was abandoned, forcing new blood pressure drugs to be invented.

It can be infuriating to process the triumphs and obstacles of Christiana’s life from a twenty-first-century feminist lens, but it is important to remember that during her time, Christiana was thinking, acting, and living in radical ways for a woman. She was instrumental in the formation of the Harvard Psychological Clinic. She was a lead and/or valued contributor to all three of the clinic’s published books, The Thematic Apperception Test Manual, A Clinical Study of Sentiments, and Explorations in Personality. Finally, Christiana’s lifelong dedication to the creative efforts of painting and writing her visions and the artistic endeavors within The Tower on the Marsh leave an indelible mark on how we understand and represent the feminine psyche – all work that happened at a time when there was little known, and not much curiosity, about women’s mental or physical health. A time when women were kept away from higher education, employment, and a public life beyond the home.

The Erasure of Christiana and Her Contributions

Stained glass designed by Christiana Morgan and based off her visions. https://www.towerofdreamsdoc.com/the-tower

Christiana and Harry’s romance was a partnership that began as a great professional and personal love affair and lasted over forty years. In the beginning, they bonded over Melville’s Moby Dick, Jung’s burgeoning ideas about analytical psychology, and their shared curiosity about psychological phenomena in general. It was out of this common focus that in 1935 their co-authored essay was published on the thematic apperception test (TAT), which they described as an “effective means of disclosing a subject’s regnant preoccupations and some of the unconscious trends which underline them”(Robinson 176). The test proved to be one of Harvard University Press’ best-selling papers and includes six of Christiana’s original artworks depicting people in specific ambiguous situations. The test requires a trained administrator to present eighteen cards with images plus one blank card to subjects over two sessions. The administrator elicits a story from the subject for each card. The subject’s stories are then interpreted by a set of standards to identify the client’s core complexes. The TAT is still used today in psychoanalysis to understand a person’s unconscious fears and desires. It is important to note that although Christiana’s methods and tone are infused throughout the TAT, which was initially published with Christiana’s name preceding Harry’s as chief author, Harvard inexplicably removed Christiana’s name from all further editions of the test.

Restoring Christiana Morgan’s Name and Work

Today, Christiana’s granddaughter, filmmaker Hilary Morgan, is working with a team of supporters to get Harvard University to reinstate her grandmother’s name on the TAT as co-author. Hilary is also developing a documentary film about Christiana’s life and the Tower on the Marsh, which fell into disrepair after it was bequeathed by Christiana’s son to a local boarding school. There is renewed interest in restoring the Tower on the Marsh as Christiana intended, creating a place of sacred inspiration. Designed and executed by Christiana, the Tower on the Marsh was built with hand tools by local craftsmen and is filled with exquisite handmade art, woodworking, and stained glass, which reflect Christiana and Harry’s dream of a supreme romance. Many of the images in the Tower come straight from Christiana’s visions. Those in the field of Jungian psychology, such as Satya Boyle Byock of Portland Oregon’s Salome Institute, are bringing Christiana’s important contributions out of the dark and into the light with seminars and lectures across the U.S.

Christiana paid the ultimate price for the depths into which she journeyed. We cannot let her efforts continue to go unrecognized, or worse, be forgotten. We are indebted to Christiana Morgan’s work as a psychoanalyst, researcher, artist, and explorer of the feminine psyche.

Christiana Morgan is a Nasty Woman Writer/Researcher and Artist.

©Arianne MacBean 2024

Works Cited

Douglas, Claire. Translate This Darkness. Princeton UP, 1993.

Jung, Carl Gustav. Visions: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1930-1934. Princeton UP, 1997.

Melker, Iona. “Revisiting the Visions of Christiana Morgan.” ARAS Connections, no. 4, 2016, 45–99.

Robinson, Forrest .G. Love’s Story Told – A life of Henry A. Murray, Harvard UP, 1992.