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Jones, Ernest


Ernest Jones was born in 1879 as the son of a mining engineer in the Welsch village Rhosfelyn (later Gowerton). After his schooling he initially studied at the University of Cardiff, transferring later to the University of London to study medicine. Following his graduation, Jones worked at the North Eastern Hospital in London, from which he was dismissed for insubordination after a mere four months. Jones was considered a difficult personality and found little favor among his colleagues on account of his domineering nature (Wagner 1966, 93) and his open discussion of sexual matters, which quickly reached the boundaries of prevailing taboos. In the period that followed, Jones had difficulty finding new employment. Already at the very beginning of his career, his scientific interest was directed toward neurology and psychiatry and toward the unconscious and sexual drives. Around 1900 Jones became aware of Freud’s theories through his later brother-in-law Wilfred Ballen Lewis Trotter, the surgeon of King George V. In 1901 he began to devote his attention to neurological research, working as a lecturer at the London School of Clinical Medicine. Beginning in 1906, he investigated the frequency of guilt feelings in healthy and disabled children using association tests. During that same year he also conducted his first psychoanalytic treatment. At a congress for neurology and psychiatry held the next year he met C.G. Jung, who offered him the opportunity to work at Zurich’s Burghölzi Psychiatric Clinic under Eugen Bleuler. Jones met Sigmund Freud for the first time at the International Psychoanalytic Congress in Salzburg in 1908.

Jones’ openness toward sexual issues caused him significant difficulties in his psychoanalytic beginnings in England. At the same time, rumors and accusations of sexual assaults came up a number of times. He was accused of having sexually harassed two disabled girls with whom he had conducted tests. Jones was arrested and jailed for a day, but shortly thereafter he was acquitted and rehabilitated in the press. Subsequently he moved to Toronto, where he spent the next five years and did pioneering work in the organization of the psychoanalytic movement with his participation in the founding of the American Psychoanalytic Association. However, in Canada Jones was also soon accused of having committed sexual assaults. In 1912 he returned to London, and a year later he took Freud’s advice and began a two-month training under Sándor Ferenczi in Budapest. That same year he proposed the establishment of the “Geheimen Komitee” (“Secret Committee”), which met for the first time in May 1913 (cf. Grosskurth 1991). During the First World War, Jones continued his organizing work for the psychoanalytic movement. His articles he published in the Jahrbuch für Psychoanalytische und Psychopathologische Forschung caused the British press to accuse him of collaborating with the enemy. Eventually Jones received official permission to continue receiving the journal in the German language from Switzerland, and thus he was able to maintain his contact with the foe abroad. Jones founded the British Psycho-Analytical Society (BPS) in 1919 and the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis a short time later. From 1920 to 1922, Jones served as president of the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA) for the first time. Despite his dedicated efforts for the psychoanalytic cause and his absolute loyalty to Freud, Jones remained a free thinker who did not hesitate to pursue theoretically or institutionally divergent goals, as can be seen in the controversy regarding the psychoanalysis of children, where he aggravated Freud by speaking out for Melanie Klein.

In 1934 Jones was again elected to the presidency of the IPA, a position he continued to hold until 1949. In 1935 he took over the chairmanship of the German Psychoanalytic Society after the Jewish psychoanalysts had been forced to resign by the National Socialists’ racial policies. Jones devoted himself to “rescuing” the German association and supported Felix Boehm and Carl Müller-Braunschweig in integrating the German psychoanalytic association into the Deutsche Institut für Psychologische Forschung und Psychotherapie led by Matthias Heinrich Göring. In 1949 he spoke out for the readmission into the IPA of the German psychoanalysts who had collaborated with the Nazis. Shortly thereafter he gave up his practice of psychoanalysis, devoting himself completely during the last seven years of his life to work on the first comprehensive Freud biography. Jones, who in his last years suffered several heart attacks and was afflicted with coronary thrombosis, died in 1958 in London.

Ernest Jones left behind an extensive and diverse body of work that does not form a cohesive whole. His creativity is displayed in the wide range of themes that he repeatedly took up and reworked anew. His work concentrated primarily on infantile sexuality, the psychology of the artist, the castration complex and sublimation and symbol theory. In his most significant works he devoted his attention to castration anxiety, which he referred to as “aphanisis”. With this term Jones meant the complete annihilation of “the direct and indirect ability to experience sexual pleasure” (Jones 1930, cit. in Krumme 1987, 16), and thus he went far beyond Freud’s theory of the castration complex. Jones developed his theory in the context of the investigation of female sexuality, which he considered to be a specific phenomenon that should be differentiated from male sexuality. The fear of complete annihilation was all that he admitted as the lowest common denominator between the two sexes.

Most of all, it was Jones’s work published in 1916 on the “The Theory of Symbolism”, in which he attempted an investigation of the rhetoric of the unconscious, that became a classic. Here he differentiated “symbolism in the broadest sense from true symbolism,” whereby he conceived of the former as a cultural factor of the first degree (Krumme 1987, 23), “as an unending series of substitutions necessitated by development, as the continuous replacement of an idea, an interest, an ability or an endeavor by another” (Jones 1919, 244, cit. in Krumme 1987, 24). He believed that human progress does not arise from an increase of knowledge contingent on the outer world, but rather that it is dependent in particular on two decisive processes: firstly, the “extension or transference of the interest and understanding of earlier, simpler and more primitive conceptions etc. to those that are more difficult and compounded at a higher level, which in a certain sense continue and symbolize their predecessors”; secondly, the “constant unmasking of earlier symbols, and the recognition that, although they were held to be true in a literal sense, they are merely the isolated views and depictions of truth that our mind, be it for affective or intellectual reasons, was capable of producing at that time” (Jones 1919, 224 ff., cit. in Krumme 1987, 24). Because Jones felt that only repressed material necessitates symbolization, he differentiated the psychoanalytic conception of the symbol from that of “classical” rhetoric; i.e. he differentiated the rhetoric of the unconscious from that of everyday life or of literature (Krumme 1987, 25). According to Jones, the psychoanalytic conception of the symbol stands for an unconscious process, in which “the affect with which the symbolized idea is cathected (...) could not be sublimated with regard to its symbolization” (ibid., 26).

In a number of studies, including works on Heinrich von Kleist, the painter Andrea del Sarto or the chess player Paul Morphy, Jones repeatedly explored the psychology of the genius. His magnum opus was doubtlessly his monumental three-volume Freud biography, with which he laid the cornerstone of Freudian historiography. Jones never finished the autobiography he entitled Free Associations, which was later assembled from his papers and published posthumously.

Text: Christiane Rothländer
Translation: Christopher Barber



Ein Verzeichnis der Werke von Ernest Jones ist abgedruckt in: Paskauskas (1993), pp. 798-806.


(1910), The Oedipus-Complex as an Explanation of Hamlet’s Mystery. A Study in Motive. In: American Journal of Psychology 21, pp. 72-113.

(1910), On the nightmare. In: American Journal of Insanity 66, pp. 383-417.

(1912), Papers on Psycho-Analysis, London.

(1913), Andrea del Sarto’s Kunst und der Einfluß seiner Gattin. In: Imago 2, S. 468-480.

(1916), The Theory of Symbolism. In: British Journal of Psychology 9, pp. 181-229.
dt.: (1919), Theorie der Symbolik. In: Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse 5, S. 244-273.

(1918), Anal-Erotic Character Traits. In: Journal of Abnormal Psychology 13, pp. 261-284.

(1923), Essays in Applied Psychoanalysis, London/Vienna.

(1924), Theorie und Praxis in der Psychoanalyse. In: Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse 11, S. 145-149.

(1927), The Early Development of Female Sexuality. In: International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 8, pp. 459-472.

(1929), The Psychopathology of Anxiety. In: British Journal of Medical Psychology 9, pp. 17-25.

(1931), The Problem of Paul Morphy. A Contribution to the Psychoanalysis of Chess. In: International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 12, pp. 1-23.

(1935), Early Femal Sexuality. In: International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 16, pp. 263-273.

(1948), Theory and Praxis of Psychoanalysis, London.

(1949), Hamlet and Oedipus, New York/London.

(1953-57), The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, 3 Vols., New York.
dt.: (1960-1962), Das Leben und Werk von Sigmund Freud, 3 Bde., Bern/Stuttgart.

(1959), Free Associations. Memoirs of a Psychoanalyst, New York.

(1951), Essays in applied Psycho-Analysis, 2 Vols. (= The International Psycho-Analytical Library; 40-41), London/Toronto.

(1987), Die Theorie der Symbolik und andere Aufsätze, mit einem Vorwort von Peter Krumme, Frankfurt a.M.

(1993), The Complete Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Ernest Jones 1908-1939, ed. by Andrew R. Paskauskas, with an introd. by Riccardo Steiner, Cambridge/London.


Appignanesi, Lisa/Forrester, John (2000), Die Frauen Sigmund Freuds.

Brome, Vincent (1983), Ernest Jones. Freud’s Alter Ego, Norton/New York.

Girard, Claude (1972), Jones, Paris.

Grosskurth, Phyllis (1991), The Secret Ring. Freud’s Inner Circle and the Politics of Psychoanalysis, London.

Junker, Helmut (1988), Entsteht eine neue Geschichte der Psychoanalyse? Ansätze zu einer Jones-Kritik. In: Luzifer-Amor 1, S. 15-31.

Krumme, Peter (1987), Vorwort. In: Ernest Jones. Die Theorie der Symbolik und andere Aufsätze, Frankfurt a.M., S. 5-40.

Paskauskas, Andrew R. (1988), The Jones-Freud-Era 1908-1919. In: Timms, Edward/Segal, Naomi (Eds.), Freud in Exile. Papers on the Origins and Evolution of Psychoanalysis, New Haven.

Roazen, Paul (1976), Sigmund Freud und sein Kreis. Eine biographische Geschichte der Psychoanalyse, Bergisch-Gladbach.

Veszy-Wagner, Lilla (1966), Ernest Jones 1879-1958. The Biography of Freud. In: Alexander, Franz/Eisenstein, Samuel/Grotjahn, Martin (Eds.), Psychoanalytic Pioneers, New York/London, pp. 87-141.

Winnicott, Donald W. (1958), Ernest Jones. In: International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 39, pp. 298-304.

Ernest Jones Revisted (2002), A Symposium. In: Studies in Gender and Sexuality 3/4.

Zusammengestellt von Christiane Rothländer


Ernest Jones bei einer Ansprache in Maresfield Gardens, 1960er Jahre, im Vordergrund unscharf Anna Freud, B-59, Fotographie, Papier
Kongreßfoto des 6. Internationalen Psychoanalytischen Kongresses in Den Haag (1920), 11 Personen in zwei Reihen: Ernest Jones, Sigmund Freud, Sándor Ferenczi, Hanns Sachs, Otto Rank, Karl Abraham, Jan van Emden, Johan van Ophujisen, B-333, Fotographie, Papier
Ernest Jones, fast Profil, ein Hand am Kinn, B-646, Fotographie, Papier
Ernest Jones und Heinz Hartmann, Luzern 1934 , B-676, Fotographie, Papier
Fotos vom 14. Internationalen Psychoanalytischen Kongreß 2.-8.8.1936 in Marienbad unter Vorsitzendem Ernest Jones. Fotoalbum in Leinen gebunden mit 42 Aufnahmen; Ernest Jones, Edward Glover, Ludwig Jekels, Hans Lampl, Istvan Hollós, Herman Nunberg, Max Ei, B-775/1 - G, Fotographie, Papier
Sigmund Freud (in Wanderkleidung) mit einem anderen Herren, vor einer Steinmauer, B-911, Fotographie, Papier
B-982, Fotographie
B-1004, Fotographie
B-1011, Fotographie
Foto Clark University, B-333/2, Fotographie
B-1030, Fotographie
B-1032, Fotographie
B-1033, Fotographie
B-1061, Fotographie
B-2281 - G, Fotographie
Gruppenfoto Clark University in Worcester, Massachusett, Amerika (1909); Sitzend: Freud, Sigmund; Hall, Stanley G.; Jung, C. G. Stehend: Brill, Abraham A.; Jones, Ernest; Ferenczi, Sándor, B-333/2 - G, Fotographie, Papier
Kongreßfoto des 6. Internationalen Psychoanalytischen Kongresses in Den Haag/NL (1920), 11 Personen in zwei Reihen: Ernest Jones, Sigmund Freud, Sándor Ferenczi, Hanns Sachs, Otto Rank, Karl Abraham, Jan van Emden, Johan van Ophujisen, der Name des Photog, B-333 - G, Fotographie, Papier
B-982 - G, Fotographie
Ernest Jones, Jugendfoto, Profil, B-645, Fotographie, Papier
Sigmund Freud (mit Zigarre) und Ernest Jones (1919), B-102, Fotographie
Ernest Jones, 14. Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Kongreß 2.-8. 8. 1936 in Marienbad, B-775/1, Fotographie, Papier
Thomas French und Ernest Jones, 14. Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Kongreß 2.-8. 8. 1936 in Marienbad, B-775/7, Fotographie, Papier
Thomas French und Ernest Jones, 14. Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Kongreß 2.-8. 8. 1936 in Marienbad, B-775/8, Fotographie, Papier
René Spitz und Ernest Jones, 14. Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Kongreß 2.-8. 8. 1936 in Marienbad, B-775/9, Fotographie, Papier
Ernest Jones greift in die Innentasche seines Saccos, im Gespräch mit einem Herren in Rückenansicht und einer Dame, 14. Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Kongreß 2.-8. 8. 1936 in Marienbad, B-775/27, Fotographie, Papier
Sigmund Freud (mit Zigarre) und Ernest Jones (1919), B-102-G, Fotographie
Das Komitee (1922), B-106, Fotographie, Papier
B-143, Fotographie
35/10, Brief, Papier
20/9, Dokument, Papier
65/2, Dokument, Papier
11/99, Brief, Papier
28/275, Dokument, Papier
68/102, Manuskript, Papier
68/103, Brief, Papier
68/154, Akte, Papier
68/304, Interview, Papier
68/303, Manuskript, Papier
68/101, Akte, Papier
68/261, Brief, Papier
Ernest Jones mit Anna Freud, B-59, Fotographie, Papier
Foto "Das geheime Komitee", 1922, B-106, Fotographie, Papier
Foto von Ernest Jones, B-645-G, Fotographie, Papier

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