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.

Coleridge, Notebooks

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.[1] 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.

Aniela Jarré

December 1961