Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung - HTML preview
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He looked at his own Soul
with a Telescope. What seemed
all irregular, he saw and
shewed to be beautiful
Constellations; and he added
to the Consciousness hidden
worlds within worlds.
This Book had its inception during the Eranos Conference held in
Ascona in the summer of 1956. There the publisher Kurt Wolff, in
conversation with friends from Zurich, spoke of his wish to have
Pantheon Books of New York publish a biography of Carl Gustav
Iung. Dr. Jolande Jacobi, one of C. G.Jung's associates, proposed
that the office of biographer be entrusted to me.
Al of us were wel aware that the task would by no means be an
easy one. Jung's distaste for exposing his personal life to the public
eye was wel known, Indeed, he gave his consent only after a long
period of doubt and hesitation. But once he had done so, he
al otted to me an entire afternoon once a week for our work
together. Considering the press of his regular program of work, and
how easily he tired--for even then he was past eighty--that was a
great deal of time.
We began in the spring of 1957. It had been proposed that the
book be written not as a "biography," but in the form of an
"autobiography," with Jung himself as the narrator. This plan
determined the form of the book, and my first task consisted solely
in asking questions and noting down Jung's replies. Although he
was rather reticent at the beginning, he soon warmed to the work.
He began tel ing about himself, his development, his dreams, and
his thoughts with growing interest.
By the end of the year Jung's affirmative attitude toward our joint
efforts led to a decisive step. After a period of inner turbulence,
long-submerged images out of his childhood rose to the surface of
his mind. He sensed their connection with ideas in the works he
had written in his old age, but could not grasp it clearly. One
morning he informed me that he wanted to set down his
recol ections of his childhood directly. By this time he had already
told me a good many of his earliest memories, but there were stil
great gaps in the story.
This decision was as gratifying as it was unexpected, for I knew
how great a strain writing was for Jung. At his advanced age he
would not undertake anything of the sort unless he felt it was a
"task" imposed on him from within. Here was evidence that the
"autobiography" was justified in terms of Jung's own inner life.
Some time after this new development, I noted down a remark of
his: "A book of mine is always a matter of fate. There is something
unpredictable about the process of writing, and I cannot prescribe
for myself any predetermined course. Thus this 'autobiography' is
now taking a direction quite different from what I had imagined at
the beginning. It has become a necessity for me to write down my
early memories. If I neglect to do so for a single day, unpleasant
physical symptoms immediately fol ow. As soon as I set to work
they vanish and my head feels perfectly clear."
In April 1958 Jung finished the three chapters on his childhood,
school days, and years at the university. At first he cal ed them, "On
the Early Events of My Life." These chapters ended with the
completion of his medical studies in 1900.
This, however, was not the sole direct contribution that Jung made
to the book. In January 1959 he was at his country house in
Bol ingen, He devoted every morning to reading chosen chapters of
our book, which had meanwhile been hammered into shape. When
he returned the chapter, "On Life after Death," he said to me,
"Something within me has been touched. A gradient has formed,
and I must write." Such was the origin of "Late Thoughts," in which
he voiced his deepest and perhaps his most far-reaching
In the summer of that same year of 1959, likewise in Bol ingen,
Jung wrote the chapter on Kenya and Uganda. The section on the
Pueblo Indians is taken from an unpublished and unfinished
manuscript that deals with general questions of the psychology of
In order to complete the chapters "Sigmund Freud" and
"Confrontation with the Unconscious," I incorporated a number of
passages from a seminar delivered in 1925, in which Jung spoke
for the first time of his inner development. The chapter "Psychiatric
Activities" is based on conversations between Jung and the young
assistant doctors of the Zurich mental hospital of Burgholzli in 1956.
At that time one of his grandsons was working as a psychiatrist
there. The conversations took place in Jung's house in Kusnacht.
Jung read through the manuscript of this book and approved it.
Occasional y he corrected passages or added new material. In turn,
I have used the records of our conversations to supplement the
chapters he wrote himself, have expanded his sometimes terse
al usions, and have eliminated repetitions. The further the book
progressed, the closer became the fusion between his work and
The genesis of the book to some extent determined its contents.
Conversation or spontaneous narration is inevitably casual, and that
tone has carried over to the entire "autobiography." The chapters
are rapidly moving beams of light that only fleetingly il uminate the
outward events of Jung's life and work. In recompense, they
transmit the atmosphere of his intel ectual world and the experience
of a man to whom the psyche was a profound reality. I often asked
Jung for specific data on outward happenings, but I asked in vain.
Only the spiritual essence of his life's experience remained in his
memory, and this alone seemed to him worth the effort of tel ing.
Far more signifcant than the difficulties of formal organization of the
text were those prior obstacles, of a more personal kind, to which
Jung refers in a letter to a friend of his student days. Replying to a
request, in the latter part of 1957, to set down the memories of his
youth, he wrote:
"... You are quite right. When we are old, we are drawn back, both
from within and from without, to memories of youth. Once before,
some thirty years ago, my pupils asked me for an account of how I
arrived at my conceptions of the unconscious. I fulfil ed this request
by giving a seminar. During the last years the suggestion has
come to me from various quarters that I should do something akin
to an autobiography. I have been unable to conceive of my doing
anything of the sort. I know too many autobiographies, with their
self-deceptions and downright lies, and I know too much about the
impossibility of self-portrayal, to want to venture on any such
"Recently I was asked for autobiographical information, and in the
course of answering some questions I discovered hidden in my
memories certain objective problems which seem to cal for closer
examination. I have therefore weighed the matter and come to the
conclusion that I shal fend off other obligations long enough to take
up the very first beginnings of my life and consider them in an
objective fashion. This task has proved so difficult and singular that
in order to go ahead with it, I have had to promise myself that the
results would not be published in my lifetime. Such a promise
seemed to me essential in order to assure for myself the necessary
detachment and calm. It became clear that al the memories which
have remained vivid to me had to do with emotional experiences
that arouse uneasiness and passion in the mind--scarcely the best
condition for an objective account! Your letter 'natural y' came at the
very moment when I had virtual y resolved to take the plunge.
1 The 1925 seminar mentioned earlier.
"Fate wil have it--and this has always been the case with me---that
al the 'outer' aspects of my life should be accidental. Only what is
interior has proved to have substance and a determining value. As
a result, al memory of outer events has faded, and perhaps these
'Outer' experiences were never so very essential anyhow, or were
so only in that they coincided with phases of my inner development.
An enormous part of these "outer' manifestations of my life has
vanished from my memory --for the very reason, so it has seemed
to me, that I participated in them with al my energies. Yet these are
the very things that make up a sensible biography: persons one has
met, travels, adventures, entanglements, blows of destiny, and so
on. But with few exceptions al these things have become for me
phantasms which I barely recol ect and which my mind has no
desire to reconstruct, for they no longer stir my imagination.
"On the other hand, my recol ection of 'inner' experiences has grown
al the more vivid and colorful. This poses a problem of description
which I scarcely feel able to cope with, at least for the present.
Unfortunately, I cannot, for these reasons, fulfil your request, greatly
as I regret my inability to do so.... "
This letter characterizes Jung's attitude. Although he had already
"resolved to take the plunge," the letter ends with a refusal. To the
day of his death the conflict between affirmation and rejection was
never entirely settled. There always remained a residue of
skepticism, a shying away from his future readers. He did not
regard these memoirs as a scientific work, nor even as a book by
himself. Rather, he always spoke and wrote of it as "Aniela Jaffé's
project," to which he had made contributions. At his specific
request it is not to be included in his Col ected Works.
Jung has been particularly reticent in speaking of his encounters
with people, both public figures and close friends and relatives. "I
have spoken with many famous men of my time, the great ones in
science and politics, with explorers, artists and writers, princes and
financial magnates; but if I am to be honest I must say that only a
few such encounters have been significant experiences for me. Our
meetings were like those of ships on the high seas, when they dip
their flags to one another. Usual y, too, these persons had
something to ask of me which I am not at liberty to divulge. Thus I
have retained no memories of them, however important these
persons may be in the eyes of the world. Our meetings were without
portent; they soon faded away and bore no deeper consequences.
But of those relationships which were vital to me, and which came
to me like memories of far-off times, I cannot speak, for they pertain
not only to my innermost life but also to that of others. It is not for me
to fling open to the public eye doors that are closed forever. "
The paucity of outward events is, however, amply compensated by
the account of Jung's inner experiences, and by a rich harvest of
thoughts which, as he himself says, are an integral part of his
biography. This is true first and foremost of his religious ideas, for
this book contains Jung's religious testament.
Jung was led to a confrontation with religious questions by a
number of different routes. There were his childhood visions, which
brought him face to face with the reality of religious experience and
remained with him to the end of his life. There was his
insuppressible curiosity concerning everything that had to do with
the contents of the psyche and its manifestations--the urge to know
which characterized his scientific work. And, last but not least, there
was his conscience as a physician. Jung regarded himself primarily
as a doctor, a psychiatrist. He was wel aware that the patient's
religious attitude plays a crucial part in the therapy of psychic
il nesses. This observation coincided with his discovery that the
psyche spontaneously produces images with a religious content,
that it is "by nature religious." It also became apparent to him that
numerous neuroses spring from a disregard for this fundamental
characteristic of the psyche, especial y during the second half of
Jung's concept of religion differed in many respects from traditional
Christianity--above al in his answer to the problem of evil and his
conception of a God who is not entirely good or kind. From the
viewpoint of dogmatic Christianity, Jung was distinctly an
"outsider." For al his world-wide fame, this verdict was forcibly
borne in upon him by the reactions to his writings. This grieved him,
and here and there in this book he expresses the disappointment of
an investigator who felt that his religious ideas were not properly
understood. More than once he said grimly, "They would have
burned me as a heretic in the Middle Agesl" Only since his death
have theologians in increasing numbers begun to say that Jung was
indubitably an outstanding figure in the religious history of our
Jung explicitly declared his al egiance to Christianity, and the most
important of his works deal with the religious problems of the
Christian. He looked at these questions from the standpoint of
psychology, deliberately setting a bound between it and the
theological approach. In so doing he stressed the necessity of
understanding and reflecting, as against the Christian demand for
faith. He took this necessity for granted, as one of the essential
features of life. "I find that al my thoughts circle around God like the
planets around the sun, and are as irresistibly attracted by Him. I
would feel it to be the grossest sin if I were to oppose any
resistance to this force," he wrote in 1952, to a young clergyman.
This book is the only place in his extensive writings in which Jung
speaks of God and his personal experience of God. While he was
writing of his youthful rebel ion against the church, he once said, "At
that time I realized that God--for me, at least--was one of the most
immediate experiences? In his scientific works Jung seldom
speaks of God; there he is at pains to use the term "the God-image
in the human psyche." This is no contradiction. In the one case his
language is subjective, based upon inner experience; in the other it
is the objective language of scientific inquiry. In the first case he is
speaking as an individual, whose thoughts are influenced by
passionate, powerful feelings, intuitions, and experiences of a long
and unusual y rich life; in the second, he is speaking as the scientist
who consciously restricts himself to what may be demonstrated and
supported by evidence. As a scientist, Jung is an empiricist.
When Jung speaks of his religious experiences in this book, he is
assuming that his readers are wil ing to enter into his point of view.
His subjective statements wil be acceptable only to those who have
had similar experiences--or, to put it another way, to those in whose
psyche the God-image bears the same or similar features.
The chapter entitled "The Work," with its brief survey of the genesis
of Jung's most important writings, is fragmentary. How could this be
otherwise, when his col ected works comprise nearly twenty
volumes? Moreover, Jung never felt any disposition to offer a
summary of his ideas--either in conversation or in writing. When he
was asked to do so, he replied in his characteristic, rather drastic
fashion, "That sort of thing lies total y outside my range. I see no
sense in publishing a condensation of papers in which I went to so
much trouble to discuss the subject in detail. I should have to omit
al my evidence and rely on a type of categorical statement which
would not make my results any easier to understand. The
characteristic ruminant activity of ungulate animals, which consists
in the regurgitation of what has already been chewed over, is
anything but stimulating to my appetite.... "
The reader should therefore regard this chapter as a retrospective
sketch written in response to a special occasion, and not expect it
to be comprehensive.
The short glossary which I have included at the end of the book, at
the publisher's request, wil , I hope, be of help to the reader who is
not familiar with Jung's work and terminology. I have taken a smal
number of the definitions from the Worterbuck der Psychologie und
ihrer Grenzgebiete, with the kind permission of its editor, Kurt von
Sury, M.D. Wherever possible I have elucidated the concepts of
Jungian psychology by quotations from Jung's works, and have
supplemented the dictionary's definitions in the same way. These
quotations must, however, be regarded as no more than suggestive
hints. Jung was constantly defining his concepts in new and
different ways, for an ultimate definition, he felt, was not possible.
He thought it wise to let the inexplicable elements that always cling
to psychic realities remain as riddles or mysteries.
A great many persons have helped me with this inspiring and
difficult task, have shown unfailing interest during the slow growth of
the book, and have furthered its progress by stimulating
suggestions and criticism. To al of them I offer heartfelt thanks.
Here I shal mention by name only Helen and Kurt Wolff, of Locarno,
who conceived the idea of the book and helped to bring that idea to
fruition; Marianne and Walther Niehus-Jung, of Kusnacht-Zurich,
who throughout the years in which it was taking shape aided me by
word and deed; and B. F. C. Hul , of Palma de Mal orca, who gave
me advice and help with unflagging patience.