Christiana Morgan (1897–1967)

Christiana Morgan, née Drummond Councilman, meets William Otho Potwin Morgan (1895–1934) in 1917 and marries him in 1919. They then move into 985 Memorial Drive in Cambridge (a few years later, the Whiteheads will live into the same building, now destroyed, 984 Memorial Drive). In 1923, she meets Henry Alexander Murray (1893–1988), a married biochemist of the Rockfeller Institute. In 1927, following Jung’s advice gathered in Zürich, they become lovers to unlock their unconscious and their creativity. Jung’s goal was to transform Morgan into an erotic muse to serve both himself and Murray (in that order). In 1935, Chr. Morgan, who held only a nurse degree delivered by New York’s YWCA during the war, becomes a “research fellow” in Radcliffe College. Besides, Murray, probably Chr. Morgan, and perhaps W. Morgan, followed some of Whitehead’s classes in the years 1927–1937. In 1941, Chr. Morgan takes part with H. Murray, H.M. Sheffer, R.B. Perry, George Morgan (“one of Altie’s beloved students”) a certain Pickman (the toastmaster) and thirty-two other guests to the 80th birthday dinner of Whitehead (not the 70th dinner, whose proceedings were published by Harvard U. P. in 1932 and later reprinted in ESP and IS). She kept a moving memory of that event and especially of Whitehead’s discourse:

He began by saying that his mind was disrupted by the tensions of the times & that he could put nothing together into any sequence. Then he said “You have all been saying these things about me —but I want to say to you that in all of my work I have only been Evelyn’s instrument —it is her voice that has talked through me —it is her understanding that I have spoken. We came together as two absolutely different people with two absolutely different backgrounds & inheritance. Out of this difference has come the fertilizing and creativity of my life —whereas in most cases it has led to strife. I know how rare and how precious this fortune is which has given me the very center of my creativeness.[1]

Chr. Morgan’s contribution to clinical psychology is two-fold: on the one hand, the painting of the “visions” that took place under Jung’s spell in the years 1926–1927 and that were extensively exploited in Jung’s recently published 1930–1934 “Visions Seminars”[2]; on the other hand, the senior authorship (that was later obliterated) of the “Thematic Apperception Test” (hereafter TAT).

Between July 1926 and May 1927, Morgan experiences, in an hypnotic transe, a string of visions that she gathers, illustrates and reworks in her Vision Notebooks that were sent to Jung in 1932. Douglas summarizes her ordeal in the following way:

Christiana did not defeat the depths but instead, and originally, united the depths with the heights. Toward the end of her visions book, in February 1927, she discovered what the masculine era had tried to hide: that not only the primitive and spiritual feminine needed uniting, but also the masculine figures of Satan and Christ. Christiana visioned a Satanic Christ lurking behind the one-sided mask of God. […] The visions as a whole anticipate Jung’s final work, Mysterium Coniunctionis. An Inquiry Into the Separation and the Synthesis of Psychic Opposites in Alchemy[3].

The TAT was first disclosed in 1935 and it was known as the “Morgan-Murray Thematic Apperception Test” until 1943.[4] Interestingly enough, Chr. Morgan got closer to Whitehead in the years 1934–1935, precisely when she was directing the work on the TAT, a non-figurative projective test still used nowadays (just as the figurative Rorschach, christened in 1921). She then seems to have replaced Evelyn Whitehead, not in the heart of the philosopher, but as the catalyst of his creative imagination. As far as we know, there are no traces of Chr. Morgan in Whitehead’s published works or in the meagre Whiteheadian archives of Nathan Marsh Pusey Library (Harvard), Milton S. Eisenhower Library (Johns Hopkins) and Center for Process Studies (Claremont School of Theology). On the other hand, Cl. Douglas’ biography, that relies heavily upon Chr. Morgan and H. Murray unpublished material preserved in Harvard (Pusey Library et Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine), presents the strong impact the philosopher had on Chr. Morgan and H. Murray—and more relevant material would obviously be found in Pusey and Countway libraries.

For example, upon seeing a sculpture of Morgan herself created in 1935 by the French-born American sculptor Gaston Lachaise (1882–1935), Whitehead exclaimed:

It is a primitve woman moving from one age to another. Terrible, magnificent,—a woman who would commit murder. A great primeval force. O, not you, you at all as far as likeness goes. Good heavens! What have you inspired? Woman becoming, woman moving out of darkness into light. The most magnificent statue of a woman I have ever seen[5].

One rediscovers the sharp, surprizing and elevated tone that some denounce in Price’s Dialogues. What Morgan furthermore claims of Whitehead is revealing both of his intuitive and architectonic mind:

At first, Christiana was put off by Altie, thinking him too brilliant and intellectual, but as they came more intimate, she understood how playful and childlike he could be; his freshness and lack of grandiosity appealed to her. Whitehead reciprocated, blossoming in her presence. They visited often in Cambridge and then in each other’s summer houses, where even at breakfast, as Christiana puts it, they would join in “delicious morning ruminations,” playing with ideas and each other’s imaginations as if they were toys. Morgan, in the same reminiscence, listed the things about Whitehead she prized: his kindness; his aesthetic sense and philosophy; his enjoyment of beauty and others’ talent; his appreciation of women; his simplicity, humor, expressiveness, loyalty, optimism, and his ability to evoke her love. She felt that Whitehead was in many ways similar to Jung; both men were her spiritual fathers and were powerful pioneers who, besides having deeply religious spirits, shared a zest and adventurousness that she prized highly. Both men also helped her to give the courage to lead her own unconventional life. Whitehead, though, held a closer place in her heart, because of his humility. […] “Altie conveys the pure joy in the living process of becoming conscious, the life joy in the formulation for its own sake… He is simply speaking out of his own life and being” and not imposing it on others[6].

With regard to the genesis and significance of the TAT, one wonders of course what were exactly the direct and indirect impact of Whitehead on the TAT and how the TAT could be used to expand the significance of the philosophy of organism. Murray, who co-authored the TAT, testified for his own Whiteheadian debt:

To Morton Prince —who had the vision, raised the endowment and was the first director of the Harvard Clinic, to Sigmund Freud —whose genius contributed the most fruitful working hypotheses, to Lawrence J. Henderson —whose expositions of scientific procedure established a methodological standard, to Alfred N. Whitehead —whose philosophy of organism supplied the necessary underlying generalities, and to Carl G. Jung —whose writings were a hive of great suggestiveness[7].

Finally, Whitehead’s Preface to William Morgan’s “The Organization of a Story and a Tale” is explicit. Here it is in its entirety as it was published:

In this account of The Organization of a Story and a Tale by Dr. William Morgan three types of scientific thought converge. In the first place, and above all, there is Dr. Morgan’s own field work among the Navaho Indians, giving him direct first-hand knowledge of the workings of a primitive mentality. In the second place, Dr. Morgan constructs his analysis with a firm grasp of the discoveries of modern psychology respecting the interweaving of emotion, perception, and belief, into some settled habit of mind. Lastly, to my own great interest, Dr. Morgan has made considerable use, especially in his terminology, of my philosophical account of the rise of an occasion of experience, of whatever grade human or animal, out of the active influences of its environment. Any valid philosophy ought to be able to furnish the categories of thought for the explanation of such particular experience.

Primitive human mentality has a special interest as throwing light on the mentality which pervades animal nature on the one hand, and in the other direction by illustrating the submerged basis of civilized thought and emotion. The animal is a step down; civilized man is above, by a short step.

As we read Dr. Morgan’s fascinating account of the rise of story and tale, under the urge of initial perception, of fusion with antecedent memory, of distortion by emotion and purpose, it is interesting to speculate as to where we differ from the primitive. The difference is not great, but it is very important. It seems to consist in the absence of criticism respecting the associations of ideas casually evoked by each state of imaginative feelings as it arises. There must be some primitive type of criticism respecting the suitability of suggested action for the purposes of immediate bodily existence. But when imagination strays beyond immediate action, there is no critical apparatus to guide it. The story of the detachment of critical powers from their immediate purpose is the inner history of the growth of civilization.[8]

Whitehead claimed that “moral education is impossible apart from the habitual vision of greatness.”[9] Chr. Morgan embodied the ideal of scholarship and commitment that is celebrated by all first-rate philosophers and sometimes by psychologists:

Life and sacrifice go together. Red is the color of life and sacrifice. […] If you want to create, you have to sacrifice superficiality, some security, and often your desire to be liked, to draw up your most intense insights, your most far-reaching visions.[10]

Chr. Morgan was truly a “woman moving out of darkness into light” and it is about time that her work be acknowledged, especially in the context of Whiteheadian studies, that is already so rich in existential speculations—archetypal or otherwise.[11]


[1] Quoted by Claire Douglas, Translate This Darkness. The Life of Christiana Morgan, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1993, pp. 221-222.

[2] See Claire Douglas (ed.), Visions: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1930–1934 by C. G. Jung, Princeton, Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series, 1997.

[3] Claire Douglas, Translate This Darkness, op. cit., p. 172. Cf. Mary Daly, Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy (Boston, Beacon Press, 1984).

[4] Christiana Morgan & Henry A. Murray, “A Method for Investigating Fantasies: The Thematic Apperception Test”, Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, 34, 1935, pp. 289-306. Cf. Henry A. Murray, M.D., and the Staff of the Harvard Psychological Clinic, Thematic apperception test: Manual. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1943.

[5] Claire Douglas, Translate This Darkness, op. cit., p. 216.

[6] Claire Douglas, Translate This Darkness, op. cit., p. 218.

[7] Henry A. Murray (ed.), Explorations in Personality. A Clinical and Experimental Study of Fifty Men of College Age, New York, Oxford University Press, 1938; cf. the paragraph “Thematic Apperception test”, pp. 673-680.

[8] William Morgan, “The Organization of a Story and a Tale. With a Preface by Alfred North Whitehead”, The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. LVIII, N° 229, July-September, 1945, pp. 169-194. This posthumous paper was edited by Clyde Kluckhohn and Chr. Morgan herself.

[9] The Aims of Education [1929], Free Press, 1967, p. 77.

[10] Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves. Contracting the Power of the Wild Woman, London, Rider, 1992, p. 222.

[11] Cf., e.g., David Ray Griffin (ed.), Archetypal Process: Self and Divine in Whitehead, Jung and Hillman, Evanston, Illinois and Chicago, Northwestern University Press, 1989; Michel Weber, L’épreuve de la philosophie. Essai sur les fondements de la praxis philosophique, Louvain-la-Neuve, Éditions Chromatika, 2008.

Author Information

Michel Weber
Centre de philosophie pratique “Chromatiques whiteheadiennes,” Brussels
Visiting Professor at the New Bulgarian University (Sofia)

How to Cite this Article

Weber, Michel, “Christiana Morgan (1897–1967)”, last modified 2008, The Whitehead Encyclopedia, Brian G. Henning and Joseph Petek (eds.), originally edited by Michel Weber and Will Desmond, URL = <>.