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The analytic nursery: Ferenczi's ‘wise baby’ meets Jung's ‘divine child’



In 1923, Sandor Ferenczi wrote a paper entitled ‘The dream of the clever baby’, in which he identified a phenomenon he discovered through his clinical work: the notion that young children who had been traumatized often had accelerated developmental characteristics that led them to acquire highly acute sensitivities and intuitions – in short, wisdom beyond their years. He characterized them as ‘wise’ babies. Similarly, C. G. Jung, with Karl Kerenyi, (1949) elaborated a myth known as the ‘divine child’– identifying an archetype which activates healing and intuitive understanding in children and adults. In their work, Jung (and Kerenyi) explored the ‘divine child’ archetype from a mythological and a psychological perspective. The following paper elaborates aspects of Ferenczi's ‘wise child’ and Jung's ‘divine child’, comparing and contrasting them, and suggesting new perspectives on the connections between Ferenczi's and Jung's theoretical and clinical perspectives, and the two men themselves. As well, and specifically, the paper explores a comparative understanding of the development of two different modalities of early psychodynamic concepts with regard to children and their response to trauma, aspects that continue through theoretical and clinical practice today.