Ellenberger is chiefly remembered for his encyclopedic study of the history of dynamic psychiatry, entitled The Discovery of the Unconscious, published in 1970. This 900-page work traced the origins of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy back to its 18th century beginnings in the attempts to heal disease through exorcism, as practiced by the Catholic priest Johann Joseph Gassner, and from him through the pioneers of hypnotism, Franz Mesmer and the Marquis de Puységur, to the 19th century neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot and the giants of 20th century psychoanalysis, Pierre Janet, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler and Carl Jung. His historical investigative work on subjects such as the fate of some of Freud's patients has been used by critics of psychoanalysis, who have judged that it could support their claims. The Institut Henri Ellenberger in Paris was named in his honor. During his lifetime he received many awards, including the Gold Medal of the Beccaria Prize in 1970, and the Jason A. Hannah Medal of the Royal Society of Canada.
Primary source material:
- The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry. New York: Basic Books. Hardcover edition: 1970, ISBN 0465016723. Paperback edition: 1981, ISBN 0-465-01673-1.