The “Night Sea Journey” and the Confrontation with the Unconscious
The split with Sigmund Freud represented a profound, decisive break in C. G. Jung’s life. Freud, of course, was deeply affected by it himself, but for him the basic positions of his work had long been firmly established.
The founder of psychoanalysis was able to pursue the work he had begun without the spectacular modifications to which he had reacted so allergically in the cases of Adler and Jung.
A serious disturbance of psychoanalytic activities began only with the onset of national socialism in Germany and Austria, hence from outside.
And by this time Freud’s life’s work was finished.
Not so for Jung.
At the ages of thirty-eight and thirty-nine he had to undergo a midlife crisis; his work on Symbols of Transformation was already an expression of this process.
To be sure, in the public eye the doctor from Küsnacht was a renowned representative of his profession with a respectable international clientele.
But Jung knew that merely continuing his work on the fringes of the psychoanalytic movement, or outside it altogether, was out of the question for him.
He even went so far as to give up his position as a lecturer on the medical faculty of the University of Zurich, which he could have continued to hold independently of the Psychoanalytical Society.
His resignation, dated 30 April 1914, was accepted by the cantonal board of education on 3 June, and with this Jung had, for the present, abandoned his academic career.
Now he concentrated on his private practice, or more precisely on himself, harder than ever before, for a process had begun for Jung, some time before his outward break with Freud, which he himself called the “confrontation with the unconscious,” and so he titled the corresponding, telling chapter of Memories, Dreams, Reflections.
Now at last the fundamental meaning of Jung’s Prologue to his autobiographical notes became clear:
“My life is a story of the self-realization of the unconscious.”
It is not the part which can be externally and biographically dated that constitutes the real life of a person, but its myth-the fateful, spiritual inner side of this life.
Because Jung repeatedly pointed out the necessity of relating this inner process of maturation and growth to one’s concrete life, the larger historical context of his biography must not be neglected.
In his correspondence and conversations with Freud, of course, social and political events had hardly played any role, and cultural ones for the most part only in the immediate context of their research, for example when mythological and artistic material was compared to mental processes or used as an interpretive tool.
The pioneers of modern depth psychology were far too occupied with their analytic and therapeutic business, their patients and “cases,” and with education, teaching, and warding off their opponents, to have sufficient time for the world’s political incidents.
But it was precisely during these months of tense confrontation and division that the catastrophe of the First World War began.
The external data are well known.
On 28 June the successor to the Austrian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was murdered by Bosnian conspirators in Sarajevo.
Within a few days this regional Balkan conflict had developed into a world· war, which before long enveloped the entire continent.
On 1 August a state of war was declared between the Kaiser’s Germany and tsarist Russia; on 3 August France joined in, and the
other nations followed.
Suddenly neutral Switzerland found itself surrounded by warring powers, and Captain Carl Jung’s compulsory military service had taken on a new dimension.
Reading his Memories, one gets the impression that the outbreak of the war per se was very much of secondary importance to him.
It was not entirely out of the picture, to be sure, but for Jung the real task even now was to work out the meaning of the unconscious.
I had to try to understand what had happened and to what extent my own experience coincided with that of mankind in general. Therefore my first obligation was to probe the depths of my own psyche. I made a beginning by writing down the fantasies which had come to me ….
Not coincidentally, the lecture he gave in Aberdeen in late July 1914-a few days before the outbreak of the war-was devoted to the importance of the unconscious in psychopathology.
How intensely the collective destiny of peoples must have concerned Jung from out of the unconscious is evident from an active imagination which occurred to him as early as October 1913, and then again a little later.
He described this “vision” as follows:
I saw a monstrous flood covering all the northern and lowlying lands between the North Sea and the Alps. When it came up to Switzerland I saw that the mountains grew higher and higher to protect our country. I realized that a frightful catastrophe was in progress. I saw the mighty yellow waves, the floating rubble of civilization, and the drowned bodies of uncounted thousands. Then the whole sea turned to blood.
It is no wonder that he pondered in shock and confusion on the sight of this apocalyptic panorama, which had held him spellbound for an hour.
Two weeks passed, and the vision was repeated under the same circumstances, but this time the transformation of the sea into blood took on a still more menacing form.
The question was, what could all this mean?
Could it be a great revolution, of the same extent and fateful significance of the sixteenth-century German Peasants’ War, which had once likewise been presaged in a great natural catastrophe?
The thought of an imminent war did not occur to Jung, who considered the impending psychosis rather in relation to himself.
But many other contemporaries of the world war, at least the more spiritually sensitive among them, could not but have recognized some inescapable doom.
For even while the frenzied flush of victory lasted among the warring peoples-the Germans at least-for several months in 1914, one could read in the Sunday edition of the Neue Zurcher Zeitungfor 14 August 1914, under the headline “War and the Word of God”:
“The monster has descended upon us. The time we live in is full of horrors; there is no one upon whose head its heavy fist has not fallen …. Everything around us has been changed …. The air around us is laden with tears suppressed, forgotten, and to come. The gravity of this hour cries aloud. ”
These are not the words of a preacher, nor indeed even of one sure of victory, but the opinion of a Jewish journalist, Margarete Susman, who was living in Zurich.
And as a sign that something extraordinary was about to happen, Jung was visited in the spring and summer of 1914 by a thrice-repeated dream:
in the middle of summer there was a cold snap of gigantic proportions; the entire country became solid ice, and everything living froze to death.
In the third dream frightful cold had again descended from out of the cosmos. This dream, however, had an unexpected end. There stood a leaf-bearing tree, but without fruit (my tree of life, I thought), whose leaves had been transformed by the effects of the frost into sweet grapes full of healing juices. I plucked the grapes and gave them to a large, waiting crowd.
A surprising turn, then, the rescuer appearing in the face of the greatest danger!
But the dreamer had to wonder to what extent he himself could act, if not as a numinous savior (grapes from a healing vine represent a numinous symbol), at least as a helper in time of need.
For at this point in his life his outer and inner circumstances alike were more those of one deeply in need of help himself.
Following the break with Freud, Jung became aware of just how fundamentally alone he was.
The much-touted “Zurich school” had effectively dwindled to an unpretentious little group; there remained his erstwhile colleagues from
Burghölzli, Franz Riklin and Alphonse Maeder.
The majority of his friends and acquaintances had turned away, and his status as a university lecturer had been given up.
The large chapter on sacrifice in Transformation Jung now connected with himself.
More strongly than ever he found himself faced with the question of what the language and imagery of myth had to say to him, or more precisely what myth he himself must live, according to what inner, super individual life plan his personal life, with its highs and lows, was structured.
I did not know that I was living a myth, and even if I had known it, I would not have known what sort of myth was ordering my life without my knowledge. So, in the most natural way, I took it upon myself to get to know “my” myth, and I regarded this as the task of tasks, for-so I told myself-how could I, when treating my patients, make due allowance for the personal factor, for my personal equation, which is yet so necessary for a knowledge of the other person, if I was unconscious of it? I simply had to know what unconscious or preconscious myth was forming me, from what rhizome I sprang.
Remarkable as it seems at first that Jung should speak of a myth in looking back on this critical segment of his life, fundamentally it is a rather common human experience.
It happens whenever people learn to recognize a meaningful texture in seemingly coincidental outward facts, joys and sorrows, human encounters and fatefully interwoven patterns.
And when Jung speaks of a confrontation with the unconscious, he means not only the contents of the personal unconscious in the Freudian sense, the sum of that which is forgotten and repressed, of instinctive factors and drives of all kinds.
He means above all the collective unconscious, with its transpersonal factors extending beyond the personal. “Really,” according to Marie-Louise von Franz,
“it is a modern, scientific expression for an inner experience that has been known to mankind from time immemorial, the experience in which strange and unknown things from our own inner world happen to us, in which influences from within can suddenly alter us, in which we have dreams and ideas which we feel as if we are not doing ourselves, but which appear in us strangely and overwhelmingly. In earlier times these influences were attributed to a divine fluid (mana), or to a god, demon, or ‘spirit,’ a fitting expression of the feeling that this influence has an objective, quite foreign and autonomous existence, as well as the sense of its being something overpowering, which has the conscious ego at its mercy.”
At the time when this overpowering force first took possession of him, Jung could not yet suspect the scope of the events that awaited him in the days to come before and during the world war.
For the clearly defined concepts of the collective unconscious and the archetype did not yet exist for him.
The pertinent experiences of his childhood, such as the dream of the ritual phallus or the existence of the antique “No. 2” personality alongside the concrete everyday reality, had pointed in this direction, of course.
The same is true for his dream of the multistory house with its ancient vault.
But in order to be able to understand these sometimes fascinating images and integrate them into his conscious life, what was necessary was precisely this confrontation with the influences from the unconscious, in the form of a perilous time of uncertainty and spiritual and psychic disorientation.
Jung saw his situation after the break with Freud thus:
I felt totally suspended in mid-air, for I had not yet found my own footing. Above all, I felt it necessary to develop a new attitude toward my patients.
Again it was dreams that occupied him, as enigmatic as they were meaningful, for example one around Christmas in 1912, at a moment when Jung was not yet thinking of a final split from Freud and the Psychoanalytical Society, or still wished to avoid it.
The action took place in the surroundings of an Italian renaissance palace.
A white dove came to rest on a magnificent emerald table at which the dreamer was sitting.
The dove spoke, with a human voice, about the possibility of her being transformed, along with twelve dead people who were also involved.
Jung was unable to interpret the dream; in particular it was not clear whether the number twelve should be connected with the apostles, the signs of the zodiac, or some other manifestation of twelve.
Should the emerald table be compared with the tradition-laden tabula Smaragdina of Hermes Trismegistos, and thus with the ancient Egyptian mythical figure of Thot-Hermes, the representative of hermetic and alchemical wisdom?
There was still another dream, which took the dreamer to the region of Arles, where there was a row of sarcophagi.
There the figures of knights were lying in full armor, as in ancient burial vaults, going back in chronological order to the twelfth century.
The remarkable thing about it was that the dreamer observed, as he walked past the line of forms he had thought to be dead, how one figure after another came to life upon being looked at or touched.
That Freudian dream theory proves a failure when faced with such motifs and forms is obvious.
The recipient of this experience found it significant that “such contents are not dead, outmoded forms, but belong to our living being.”
Only in the larger context of the gradually developing doctrine of the archetypes was some light shed on such dreams, although the details are bound to remain problematic when the rational and reductive method-or any other-is applied to them.
And even this barely resolvable dream text was grounds enough for Jung to occupy himself for a long time with this matter, which led him gradually to his later doctrine of the archetypes.
This took place under a considerable inner pressure, which:
at times … became so strong that I suspected there was some psychic disturbance in myself. Therefore I twice went over all the details of my entire life, with particular attention to childhood memories; for I thought there might be something in my past which I could not see and which might possibly be the cause of the disturbance. But this retrospection led to nothing but a fresh acknowledgment of my own ignorance.
This statement is characteristic of Jung’s predicament, in that while he was, to be sure, groping after the structures of the collective
unconscious, on the other hand he was still seeking to apply the reductive and causal methodology relied upon by psychoanalysis,
with whose help he thought he could uncover some kind of childhood traumas.
The turning point in his destiny arrived only with the moment when Jung yielded to his inner impulse, the play instinct with which he had once manipulated building stones as a boy of ten or eleven.
The image of how he had constructed his childish edifices in the surroundings of the parsonage in Klein-Huningen was still vivid in his memory.
He said to himself, “Here is a creative life that is not extinguished yet, but could be reactivated under the right circumstances.”
And then something clearly remarkable happened.
Once he had wholeheartedly accepted the feeling of humiliation and the avowal of his complete helplessness, he began-a man in his late
thirties with several elementary-school-age children of his own-to do the same thing all over again.
Just as he had a generation ago, he collected little stones on the shore of Lake Zurich and began playfully building a whole village; a village with a church and finally also-after some hesitation-an altar.
The sense of this as a numinosum, something sacred and belonging to the “wholly other,” must have prompted him.
But the decisive thing for Jung was that with his (we might say therapeutic) action, his thoughts began to clear and he began to find a certain contentment.
I went on with my building game after the noon meal every day, whenever the weather permitted. As soon as I was through eating, I began playing, and continued to do so until the patients arrived; and if I was finished with my work early enough in the evening, I went back to building …. Naturally, I thought about the significance of what I was doing, and asked myself, “Now, really, what are you about? You are building a small town, and doing it as if it were a rite!” I had no answer to my question, only the inner certainty that I was on the way to discovering my own myth. For the building game was only a beginning. It released a stream of fantasies which I later carefully wrote down.
The need to master his inner vision, the inner urge which strove toward realization, through handcraft still had meaning for Jung even in his later years.
As he recounted this stage of his autobiography in 1957, at the age of eighty-two, he drew particular attention to how important working with stones whether as stonemason or as architect and bricklayer-had always been to him whenever specific problems had to be
solved-inner stagnation in writing certain books, or even coping with the death of his wife, who died on 27 November 1955.
Sometimes he would take up brush and colors and paint a picture.
This creative activity had a revivifying effect on him, and he made a method of it in his therapeutic practice.
But referring to the time of this crisis, Jung declared:
To the extent that I managed to translate the emotions into images-that is to say, to find the images which were concealed in the emotions-I was inwardly calmed and reassured. Had I left those images hidden in the emotions, I might have been torn to pieces by them. There is a chance that I might have succeeded in splitting them off; but in that case I would inexorably have fallen into a neurosis and so been ultimately destroyed by them anyhow. As a result of my experiment I learned how helpful it can be, from the therapeutic point of view, to find the particular images which lie behind emotions.
Occasionally he would devote himself to yoga exercises in order to find the peace necessary for working with the productions of the unconscious.
But what was of crucial significance for him during those years of disorientation was being firmly anchored in his concrete life, his profession and his family, which not only made their own claims upon him, but for just this reason provided a handhold and a counterweight as well as any spiritual leader or guru could have done.
Again and again it became clear that these things were the real base of his life, to which he must always return.
The unconscious contents could have driven me out of my wits. But my family and the knowledge: I have a medical diploma from a Swiss university, I must help my patients, I have a wife and five children, I live at 228 Seestrasse in Kusnacht-these were actualities which made demands upon me and proved to me again and again that I really existed, that I was not a blank page whirling about in the winds of the spirit, like Nietzsche. Nietzsche had lost the ground under his feet because he possessed nothing more than the inner world of his thoughts-which incidentally possessed him more than he it. He was uprooted and hovered above the earth, and therefore he succumbed to exaggeration and irreality. For me, such irreality was the quintessence of horror, for I aimed, after all, at this world and this life.
His affirmation of the concrete world also found expression in the fact that he once again took up his favorite sport, sailing, with the cooperation of friends.
On one occasion he spent four days crisscrossing Lake Zurich, in the company of his boyhood friend Albert Oeri and three younger companions.
On this occasion the voyage took on a special tone from Albert Geri’s reading from Homer’s Odyssey.
He deliberately selected the particularly fitting nekyia episode, which describes Odysseus’ voyage to the otherworldly shores of the realm of shadows and the abode of the departed.
“The sails were taut,” Homer’s hero describes his ship to the listening Phaeacians, “as she sped all day across the sea till the sun sank and light thickened on every pathway.
The vessel came to the bounds of eddying Ocean, where lie the land and the city of the Cimmerians, covered with mist and cloud. Never does the resplendent sun look on this people with his beams, neither when he climbs towards the stars of heaven nor when once more he comes earthwards from the sky; dismal night overhangs these wretches always. Arriving there, we beached the vessel, took out the sheep and then walked onwards beside the stream of Ocean until we came to the [ rock and the confluence of the rivers of the dead] that Circe had told us of, [and there we sacrificed as she had prescribed].”
Undoubtedly it was a pertinent text, for Jung too found himself in the midst of his own nekyia, in which he had to hold his ground against the super-personal experience of the other side.
Although there were no ghosts of the dead to be conjured up here, he would have to enter those precincts of spiritual and psychic reality which Sigmund Freud had once invoked when he prefaced his Interpretation of Dreams with the no less ominous lines:
Flectere si nequeo superos, acheronta movebo.
If I cannot turn the gods above, then shall I move the world below.
But who, in Jung’s case, was moving whom?
Was it not the inner conflicts, the disquieting dreams and overpowering fantasies and imaginations that were driving him to the edge of
The doctor had become the patient, the psychiatrist a “borderline case” on the threshold between neurosis and psychosis.
Jung was clearly aware of the alarming precariousness of his predicament, and for this very reason he could not allow himself to lose his footing in reality.
It would not have been the first time that a psychiatrist or psychoanalyst had been sacrificed to his own discipline.
Jung had only to think of his colleague and patient Otto Gross or the tragic suicide of his promising student Johann Jakob Honegger.
The motif of the ocean voyage, or that of the nekyia, cannot be grasped by means of academic psychopathological criteria alone.
The “night sea journey,” as Leo Frobenius called it early in this century, is known in many mythologies, which is to say that it contains archetypal features common to all humankind.
Thus as the sun is devoured day after day in the west to begin its night voyage in the womb of the cosmic mother before it can rise anew in the east, so too runs the course of the sun god, the primordial image of the (solar) hero who accepts being devoured as his destiny, and in this way experiences rebirth and resurrection.
With this we encounter a primal motif of both humankind and the individual.
Is it any coincidence that the much-discussed midlife crisis, the critical stage of middle life, comes at a time of change?
The time when physical powers are on the increase is a climax and a conclusion only from a biological standpoint.
Significantly, there is a “dead center” through which one has to pass in one’s own individual way, in view of the new orientation to the completely
altered contents and goals of the second half of life.
Fundamentally every person is confronted with this problem, for practically speaking only a relatively few are destined to go fully conscious through the events of middle life, as even a glance at the spiritual and mystic history of humanity will show.
But only one who has accepted this process of mystical death, who has undertaken the soul’s journey to the other side and withstood the voyage on the night sea, into hell (“traveled down into the realm of the dead … “), can stand before his fellow men with this experience as one changed, even as “a new
person,” and bring them the knowledge of a new life.
Only he is in a position to lead others on their own night voyages, whether as the psychopomp (“leader of the soul”) of the ancient mysteries, or as guru, master, or spiritual leader in the various Eastern and Western systems of initiation.
The history of Christian esoterism all the way to the present offers a wealth of examples of the ways and means of spiritual experience and guidance.
Whereas the priest performs traditional rites of purification and sacrifice, and the scribe or the theologian interprets the texts of sacred tradition and unlocks them for the present day, the spiritual master draws from his own individual inner experience, whether by showing others the mystical path as a
meditation teacher or advisor, or by helping as a therapist to release self-healing psychosomatic powers.
In each case the process of individual maturation goes on after the experience of the zero-point of middle life.
Merely countering the symptoms would be just as inadequate as merely adapting the individual to the respective norms and expectations of society.
Self-realization-what Jung terms “individuation”-is the great theme of humanity; Nietzsche said, “You must become who you are!”
The occasional reproach that Jung was a mystic, an esoteric (in the true sense of the word as one who is gifted with inner experience), can justifiably be applied to these experiences of his middle life, and Jung may be taken at his word when he says in his description of this time:
I myself had to undergo the original experience, and, moreover, try to plant the results of my experience in the soil of reality; otherwise they would have remained subjective assumptions without validity …. Today I can say that I have never lost touch with my initial experiences. All my works, all my creative activity, has come from those initial fantasies and dreams.
The process which had had its beginning for Jung in the year 1912 entered the crucial phase around Advent-on December, to be exact-in 1913.
He was ready to lay himself open to the flood of imaginations, fantasies, and dreams, to begin his own journey to the other side, as it had repeatedly
been described for example in the Gnostic texts of antiquity.
The impression made by the whole thing was, by his own report, quite frightening.
To be sure, Jung meant to conceive what happened during these months as a scientific and medical experiment on himself, an experiment which the doctor seemed to owe to his patients if in future he wished to make it available to them as well.
But his predicament took on unexpected dimensions.
I was sitting at my desk once more, thinking over my fears. Then I let myself drop. Suddenly it was as though the ground literally gave way beneath my feet, and I plunged down into dark depths. I could not fend off a feeling of panic.
Darkness and glittering light alternated, and among the forms that gradually emerged was a large black scarab, the ancient Egyptian symbol of death and rebirth.
For Jung, the dismaying novelty in these experiences evidently lay in the fact that the distance between subject and object appeared to have been abolished.
The experimenter no longer stood apart form the “object” of his investigation in the accustomed way; rather he himself had become the object of the experiment.
It is of course ironical that I, a psychiatrist, should at almost every step of my experiment have run into the same psychic material which is the stuff of psychosis and is found in the insane. This is the fund of unconscious images which fatally confuse the mental patient. But it is also the matrix of
a mythopoeic imagination which has vanished from our rational age.
When the gigantic bloody vision from the fall of the same year appeared again, Jung was forced to give up trying to understand what he had seen.
The images were too far removed from rational consciousness.
Not until six days later (18 December 1 913), when a dream appeared in which the dreamer found himself in a mountainous landscape, was it
possible to guess the meaning:
Over the mountain ridge the horn of Siegfried sounded.
Suddenly his awesome figure appeared in the light of the rising sun and raced like the wind down toward the valley.
Jung, who was accompanied by an unknown brown-skinned man, was convinced that they had to shoot Siegfried.
After the deed was done he was “filled with disgust and remorse for having destroyed something so great and beautiful,” and oppressed by an intolerable feeling of guilt.
Hardly had Jung awoken from this dream when he sensed an inner need to resolve it.
He felt that if he did not succeed this time he would have to kill himself; the terse comment in his auto-psychograph reads, “In the drawer of my night table lay a loaded revolver.”
And in fact it did become clear to him:
Siegfried, a symbol of the German and idealistic ideal, is the quintessence of the self-conscious ego and the heroic ideal. He himself identified with Siegfried; indeed many of his Jewish colleagues had once looked upon him as just such a “gigantic blond Siegfried”! Siegfried was also the name of
the son whom Sabina Spielrein longed for. And it was just this proud egoism to which he had to put an abrupt end, accompanied by the brown-skinned savage. In this strange figure Jung recognized an embodiment of his primitive shadow, which is to be seen as another component, the unconscious dark side, of the dreamer’s being. The sensation that with this explanation he was on the right track, or at least heading in the right direction, afforded a certain feeling of confidence, although he had not yet by a long shot won the insights he was searching for. Before him lay a passage into the depths, an encounter with images that gave him the feeling of being “in the land of the dead”:
Near the steep slope of a rock I caught sight of two figures, an old man with a white beard and a beautiful young girl. I summoned up my courage and approached them as though they were real people, and listened attentively to what they told me. The old man explained that he was Elijah, and that
gave me a shock. But the girl staggered me even more, for she called herself Salome! She was blind. What a strange couple: Salome and Elijah. But Elijah assured me that he and Salome had belonged together from all eternity, which completely astounded me …. They had a black serpent living
with them which displayed an unmistakable fondness for me. I stuck close to Elijah because he seemed to be the most reasonable of the three, and to have a clear intelligence. Of Salome I was distinctly suspicious. Elijah and I had a long conversation which, however, I did not understand.
Thus the dream of the killing of Siegfried had opened the doors to the other side, for the figures who meet Jung in his imagination and with whom-particularly Elijah-he agrees to converse clearly stand for factors in his unconscious.
The religious tone is clear from the names given to the characters.
The opposition between the reasonable old man and the beautiful but blind young woman stands out immediately.
Those who are familiar with the history of mystery and myth will be reminded of similar couples, for example Klingsor and Kundry in the Grail legends, where the Merlinesque wise man is opposed by a sorceress.
Jung himself thought of the sage Lao-tse and the dancer in Holderlin’s poem:
“Who has thought of the deepest/Loves what is most living. He understands high virtue/Who has looked into the world. And the wise often bow/To beauty in the end.”
And because Jung had been absorbed, during his year of confrontation with the unconscious, in the gnosis of early Christianity, the Gnostic of the apostolic period, Simon Magus of Samaria, was also no stranger to him.
To be sure, the New Testament Acts of the Apostles (chapter 8) is silent on Simon’s possible following, but the church inquisitors of the second and third centuries reported that he had gone about with a woman by the name of Helen, thought to be a reincarnation of Helen of Troy, whom he had passed off as his “first intention” (that is, the first thought that had arisen in him).
The gnosticism of the first centuries after Christ was of great importance for Jung’s theme, because its polymorphous pantheon of spiritual beings
included many such dual entities or syzygies, a phenomenon known further from comparative religion.
Finally, the presence of a snake points to a hero myth, not because it has to do with a battle with the snake or dragon, but because the snake, which sheds its skin, embodies a being that transforms itself, expressing the transformation of the hero.
But all these are of course only amplifications, embellishments of what is seen in the imagination by means of elements showing similar motifs.
With their help Jung later achieved an interpretation which was to become important in Jungian psychotherapy, namely the concept of the soul-image.
In a man it usually takes a feminine form (in dreams and fantasies, for example); this is the “anima,” whereas in the same way a woman produces or imagines the oppositely sexed soul-image of the “animus.”
And this in itself serves to mark two typical, or archetypal, and primal forms of the unconscious.
Hence Jung’s explanation:
Salome is an anima figure. She is blind because she does not see the meaning of things. Elijah is the figure of the wise old prophet and represents the factor of intelligence and knowledge; Salome, the erotic element. One might say that the two figures are personifications of Logos and Eros. Jung interrupts himself at this point in his interpretation to remark-correctly, of course-that a hasty intellectual definition of such soul-images is of little help. It is much more sensible, he says, to take the respective figures as what they represented, namely elucidations of unconscious background processes. As such they are by no means required to retain the same form or name. In Jung’s later imaginations and dreams, for example, Elijah changed into another venerable figure, whom he named “Philemon.” The name Philemon was not given by chance, for clearly this product of his unconscious was connected with the old Philemon, the husband of Baucis, whom Jung had met at the beginning of Act 5 of Goethe’s Faust. To Jung this figure took on a new function, for the Jungian Philemon was not the companion of an equally old woman, but of the youthful Salome. The latest evidence that Jung had in mind a reference to Faust came from the stone-chiseled inscription which can be seen over the entrance to his tower in Bollingen:
Shrine of Philemon,
Repentance of Faust.
As early as his first readings at the Gymnasium-not least of Ovid’s Metamorphoses-he was familiar with these two hospitable old people who were to die a violent death in Faust.
The lives of those who had once sheltered Zeus and Mercury beneath their poor roof had stood in the way of Faust’s ambitious plans, and therefore they had become this murderer’s victims.
One day it became suddenly and alarmingly clear to Jung that he “had a legacy from Faust, as the advocate and avenger of Philemon and Baucis, who, at variance with Faust in his hubris, are the hosts of the gods in a time of wickedness and neglect of the gods.
This became, one might say, a personal matter between me and my proavus Goethe.”
Jung suspected the existence of a Goethean world within himself, in which he had to play his corresponding part, in which he answered to Faust.
“I would have given a world to know whether Goethe knew why he named the two old people ‘Philemon’ and ‘Baucis.’
Faust sinned against these ancestors (Philema and Baubo) from the beginning.
Indeed, one really has to be almost dead before he understands this secret correctly,” he wrote at sixty-six.
And again later in the Memories, Jung followed the thread of this thought further, remarking:
“Later I consciously linked my work to what Faust had passed over: respect for the eternal rights of man, recognition of ‘the ancient,’ and the continuity of culture and intellectual history.”
One day this pagan and gnostic figure of Philemon emerged in an impressive dream.
He had the horns of a bull and wings the characteristic color of a kingfisher, and in his hand was a bunch of four keys with which he was about to open a lock.
Hence Jung was deeply shaken when, a little later, he discovered a dead kingfisher on the shore of the lake in his garden; it had died relatively recently, two or three days before at the most, and no visible injuries-a memorable coincidence.
Anyone with psychotherapeutic experience knows that in everyday life similar or analogous “coincidences” can be associated with inner images or dream motifs.
But what of the dream?
Jung once again took up his paintbrushes to preserve the image of Philemon.
Anyone who has seen Jung’s tower in Bollingen at first hand has encountered Philemon’ s portrait there, for it hangs on the wall of the cell-like sleeping chamber in which Jung used to spend the nights when he would retreat for days or weeks at a time into the quiet solitude of his tower.
The fact that he continued to paint this figure from his imagination into the twenties shows how deep an impression this “wise old man” must have made on him a decade earlier.
Psychologically speaking, Philemon represented for him a superior insight, or at any rate one that was not achieved by virtue of his own intellectual efforts but managed to unfold its own unique life.
As C. G. Jung’s example shows, this is so true that in some cases one can speak with such “fantasy figures,” who may have ready answers and advice that can be of extraordinary significance for the person concerned-the significance of an inspiration which stems, in the esoteric sense, from the
“spiritual world” and therefore is equivalent to spiritual guidance.
It was the certainty that he was not alone with his problem, that he had a psychagogue, a spiritual guide or guru with whose support he could withstand the inner darkness, that afforded Jung some confidence during this time of his journey to the other side.
“This task was undertaken by the figure of Philemon, whom in this respect I had willy-nilly to recognize as my psychagogue. And the fact was that he conveyed to me many an illuminating idea.”
To this spiritual aspect of the unconscious psyche was later added another idea, which was more an embodiment of the chthonic, the spiritual in nature.
The Egyptians had known this principle as the ka, a kind of double which accompanies the person.
The ka was “an expression of the creative and preserving power of life; in earliest times it referred specifically to the masculine power of procreation … , but early on it was applied to spiritual and psychic power …. The ka was born together with the person.”
In Jung’s fantasy the ka came up out of the earth as if from a deep pit, and suddenly the image of the ritual phallus he had seen in his childhood dream comes to mind.
He painted this chthonic figure from his imagination as one of the hermae (Greek herma, “prop, support”) which stood before houses in ancient Greece as (phallic) stone pillars intended to protect them from the evil of the world outside.
But just as with the mythical drama, what is essential does not lie in any particular concrete, external form, and thus it does not really depend upon the assigning of this or that specific name or shape.
All that matters is that the one who experiences these active imaginations should learn to recognize, resolve, and integrate them as spiritual and psychic signatures.
Thus one would be wholly mistaken to cling to these images and personifications as if they were beings existing in themselves.
For they are “only” markers and indicators; as such they need to be transformed to the point that with their help much as in dealing with a dream-the meaning of the dream is perceived.
Hence the reality lies behind Jung’s terse concluding comment on Philemon and Ka: “In time I was able to integrate both figures.”
Because this is in every case a very individual process, it is impossible to recommend any universal method.
But certainly the representation of the experience, whether in clay or color or by recording it in written form, is one invaluable aid in mastering the productions of the unconscious.
As a scientifically trained doctor, Jung was bound to wonder what he was really doing with this activity, whether this could still be called science, an experiment that nonetheless largely eluded complete scientific controls, or whether his fantasy images belonged in the category of art.
While he was struggling with this question, a woman’s feminine voice intruded itself, one which he recognized as the voice of one of his patients, “a
gifted psychopath who had a strong transference to me.”
Naturally, as became gradually clear to him, it was not simply a particular patient who was speaking; for one thing she could not have known what was going on within her doctor’s psyche or what her voice was inaudibly saying to him.
Yet this aspect of their relationship was no coincidence, for Jung realized that it was that archetypal figure in the man’s unconscious which he later termed the anima.
Furthermore, in the course of his studies he came to the conclusion that the man’s soul image, the anima, was unconsciously projected onto certain
feminine figures, which could then hold a correspondingly strong fascination for him.
Put more generally:
Wherever there exists an absolutely magical relationship, as it were, between the two sexes, it is a matter of projection of the soul-image [in this case the anima]. Now since these relationships are so common, the psyche must frequently be unconscious; that is, many people must be unconscious of how they are related to their inner psychic processes …. If the soul-image is projected, an unconditional affective tie to the object of the projection appears. If
it is not projected, a relatively unadapted condition arises which Freud described in part as “narcissism.” The projection of the soul-image is a release from concern with the inner processes, so long as the behavior of the object corresponds to the soul-image.
It is significant for Jung’s biography to note that this unnamed “gifted” patient had had “a strong transference” to him.
This brings to mind in the first place the erotic relationship which is conditioned by, while at the same time making possible, the process of analysis.
The autobiography is silent on this point.
Above all, it says nothing about whether Jung’s unconscious may have answered with a countertransference of its own, which, as Freud declared in the case of Sabina Spielrein, is by no means an uncommon problem of the psychotherapist-quite apart from the question of the value or uselessness of the transference and countertransference phenomenon.
That Jung makes no further reference to the person’s identity beyond the fact that she was a gifted patient is understandable on the grounds of his professional duty to maintain confidentiality.
Or could this refusal also have been because any further information would have shed definitive light on his relationship with a specific woman?
He did after all destroy his correspondence with Toni Wolff, for example.
The fact that this particular “gifted” woman, who was very close to him for over forty years, received not a single word of mention in the Memories, reveals an eloquent silence.
But it was at precisely this point in his extremely active confrontation with the unconscious that his relationship with the young Toni must have played an important role-clearly not only in the erotic sense of the reciprocal “transference” between man and woman or doctor and patient, but also with respect to his nekyia in the inner world of the unconscious.
In his emphatically polemically oriented study on Jung, Paul J. Stern asks whether Toni Wolff could perhaps have provided her friend with an Ariadne’s thread for his escape from the labyrinth of psychic confusion and obscurity.
In the absence of evidence, a satisfactory answer to this question remains impossible.
Already in the Alexandrian era, alchemy was familiar with the soror mystica (“mystical sister”), the spiritual companion of the adept.
She stood by him and, through her presence, as a symbol of totality, brought about the desired work.
On the artistic plane there is the well-known femme inspiratrice, the woman whose inspiration makes possible the realization of works of art (even though this state of affairs, lying as it does partly in the unconscious, is not always clear to those involved); to say nothing of the negative aspect of femininity as seen in the femme fatale.
In psychological terms, there are clearly various “structural forms of the feminine psyche” (a formulation of Toni Wolff’s!), be they those of mother or
hetaira, medium or amazon.
Noteworthy in this connection is the typology which Toni Wolff attributed to the structural form of the hetaira, as a companion who accompanies the
man’s scientific or artistic creation:
“The hetaira or companion is instinctively related to the personal psychology of the man …. The man’s individual interests, tendencies, and, if need be, problems lie within the purview of her consciousness, and through her they are stimulated and advanced. She gives him a sense of personal value apart from collective values, for her own development requires that an individual relationship be drawn out and realized in all its nuance and depth …. The function of the hetaira would be to awaken in the man the individual psychic life which goes beyond his masculine responsibility, to make him a whole personality. This development generally becomes a task only for the second half of life, after his social existence has been established.”
And it was in exactly this situation that Jung found himself at the time in question.
The age gap of some thirteen years was not that of an old man and a young woman, considering the imaginary figures of Philemon and Salome.
Anyone who knew both Jung and Toni Wolff well, and had had ample opportunity to observe them carefully together in private as well as in the professional sphere, would have to agree with the judgment of Barbara Hannah, who recalled that even by his schoolmates at the Gymnasium Jung was called “Father Abraham.”
In her experience and that of others who knew the two well and often saw them together, he was “the prototype . , of the wise old man,” whereas Toni Wolff enjoyed “the quality of eternal youth.”
“At much the same time of the fantasy he made the extraordinary discovery that of all his friends and acquaintances only one young girl [Toni] was able to follow his extraordinary experiences and to accompany him intrepidly on his Nekyia to the underworld …. It was anything but easy at first for him to find a modus vivendi by which she could give him her extraordinary gift-it would not be an exaggeration to call it her genius-for companionship in the ‘confrontation with the unconscious.”‘
The interpersonal problem is obvious, for on the one hand there was Emma Jung, a mother of five children and moreover a scarcely less insightful companion and collaborator beside her husband.
On the other hand, Toni Wolff was described as a woman who clearly could not be dismissed by anyone-not even Emma Jung-as a mere femme fatale or willful homewrecker.
And in fact Toni, in her mid-twenties, did have her placed in the maturing process in which Jung found himself; above all she had her place in the “experiment” whose results included the insight into the anima archetype without which analytical psychology’s picture of the human being is unthinkable.
The Jungian analyst Barbara Hannah said flatly that Emma and Toni, the mother figure and the hetaira figure, were the two fundamentally inseparable sides of a single problem.
In her judgment,
“Toni Wolff was perhaps-of all the ‘anima types’ I have ever known-the most suited to carry the projection of this figure. She was not beautiful in the strictly classical sense, but she could look far more than beautiful, more like a goddess than a mortal woman. She had an extraordinary genius for accompanying men-and sometimes women too, in a different way-whose destiny it was to enter the unconscious. Indeed, she learned of this gift through her relation to Jung, but she afterward showed the same gift when she became an analyst; in fact it was her most valuable quality as an analyst. Curiously enough, she did not ever enter the unconscious on her own account.”
Late in his life Jung came to speak of the problem of the hetaira.
It would hardly be possible to achieve a proper evaluation of this fateful constellation from outside.
Many people, though, might have found the problems of this three-way relationship unacceptable, making it all the more astonishing that a modus
vivendi was in fact found and practiced which lasted for decades.
With the reservations that must necessarily be held toward the testimony of even a close observer, the floor goes once again to Barbara Hannah, who wrote:
“What saved the situation was that there was no ‘lack of love’ in any of the three. Jung was able to give both his wife and Toni a most satisfactory
amount, and both women really loved him. Therefore, although for a long while they were at times most painfully jealous of each other, love always won out in the end and prevented any destructive action on either side.
Emma Jung even said years later:
‘You see, he never took anything from me to give to Toni, but the more he gave her, the more he seemed able to give me.”‘ The eyewitness added
tersely, “Of course, this amazing insight was not reached early or without suffering, but that it was reached at all is the amazing thing …. ”
There is no question that Emma Jung had an important say.
For a person who is concerned-as Jung was at this period in his life-to become acquainted with his own inner world, it is very important, however, not
to make this descent into the unconscious without guidance or relationship.
Jung himself pointed in his autobiography to the great help his family and his work offered him; of Toni Wolff’s accompanying function of soror mystica he occasionally spoke to his most intimate friends.
As Barbara Hannah conjectured,
“I think he was doubtful that he could have survived this most difficult of all journeys had he been entirely alone in it.”
And she pointed out in this connection how indispensable a reliable interpersonal relationship is whenever one enters this inner path through one’s own
Because dreams and fantasies such as have been described sometimes prove to be very fleeting, it is necessary to fix them in writing, even if in notes which are not much more than an insufficient suggestion of the inner vision.
Jung had entered a part of his written record first in the so-called Black Book, which Aniela Jaffe described as series of “six black-bound, smallish leather notebooks.”
These descriptions took their final form in the Red Book, written in a calligraphic script and illustrated with numerous full-sized drawings in color, also
depictions of what he had seen.
Jung noted in the Memories:
In the Red Book I tried anesthetic elaboration of my fantasies, but never finished it. I became aware that I had not yet found the right language, that I still had to translate it into something else. Therefore I gave up this estheticizing tendency in good time, in favor of a rigorous process of understanding. I saw that so much fantasy needed firm ground underfoot, and that I must first return wholly to reality. For me, reality meant scientific comprehension. I had to draw concrete conclusions from the insights the unconscious had given me-and that task was to become a life work.
But in practice this meant that he had to present his dealings with the unconscious, his dialogues with his anima (Salome) and the wise old Philemon, in such a way as to make his experience generally assimilable and usable.
The means of dealing with the emotions, affects, fantasy-obsessing thoughts, melodies, or dream-images and of discerning their secrets found its expression in Jung’s method of active imagination.
But the process itself represented for him a drama of self-rescue from the grip of the unconscious.
It was for this very reason that he could not keep to himself the course or the results of these events which had extended over some five years.
These “building blocks of psychosis” had revealed themselves to be equally a “matrix of mythopoeic imagination,” which, like the unconscious itself, had a compensating function to fulfill in a rationalistic and nonspiritual age.
To the extension of consciousness was thus added an ethical obligation, the doctor’s duty to make what he had won by experience bear therapeutic fruit.
The old admonition “Physician, heal thyself” is nowhere more warranted than here.
Jung recalled Goethe’s dictum: “Dare to storm those gates which everyone gladly sneaks past,” referring to the common deep-rooted human aversion to looking behind the pleasant facade of self-deception and coming to know oneself.
Gradually a change began to be apparent. It turned out that the measures Jung had found by instinct and intuition had been the right ones for his spiritual and psychic predicament.
They had helped him not only to come to an understanding of these “initial imaginations and dreams,” but also to maintain his contact with everyday reality and his obligations to society.
And still the world war raged on.
Jung was not allowed to bring his experimental night voyage of the soul to a close in the relatively sheltered atmosphere of his home in Kusnacht, for as part of his recurring compulsory duties as a captain in the medical corps, he served from 1916 to 1918 as commander of a training camp for British troops at Chateaux-d’Oex, a few kilometers south of Fribourg in the lower Alps region of French-speaking Switzerland.
The various writings from the year 1916 were themselves of great significance for the progress of Jung’s inner development.
He perceived an inner need to put the flood of images and thoughts into literary and artistic form, and what emerged was the Septem Sermones ad Mortuos, the “seven sermons to the dead.”
Who “the dead” were was not explained in more detail; Jung went only so far as to say that he had in mind the “voices of the unanswered, the unreleased and unredeemed.”
But ambiguity arises even from the real fact of the great war: in the same year, 1916, more than half a million men bled to death before Verdun alone.
On the other hand the fateful confrontation with the world of the departed came up also in Odysseus’ nekyia.
It goes without saying that Jung had no truck with any spiritism, even though he had occasion to speak of the presence of ghosts in the context of the Sermones.
Ultimately they were personifications of his own inner being.
Thus the Septem Sermones ad Mortuos represent the written record of psychic processes which needed to be elucidated from the point of view of consciousness.
To be sure, the circumstances under which these writings came about were remarkable enough.
At first there was a great restlessness, but who or what was causing it Jung did not know.
The whole atmosphere in his house was, as it were, oppressed, “filled with ghostly entities.”
And then a regular haunting began, in which the entire family was included.
One night his eldest daughter saw a white figure passing through the room.
Independently of her, his second daughter reported that twice during the night her blankets had been pulled away.
The next morning his nine-year-old son asked his mother for crayons in order to draw his dream of the previous night, and he called the result “The Picture of the Fisherman,” itself an extremely puzzling imagery.
This happened on a Saturday morning. Jung’s account continues:
Around five o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday the front doorbell began ringing frantically. It was a bright summer day; the two maids were in the kitchen, from which the open square outside the front door could be seen. Everyone immediately looked to see who was there, but there was no one in sight. I was sitting near the doorbell, and not only heard it but saw it moving. We all simply stared at one another. The atmosphere was thick, believe me! Then I knew that something had to happen. The whole house was filled as if there were a crowd present, crammed full of spirits. They were packed deep right up to the door, and the air was so thick it was scarcely possible to breathe. As for myself, I was all a-quiver with the question: “For God’s sake, what in the world is this?” Then they cried out in chorus, “We have come back from Jerusalem where we found not what we sought.”
A mysterious occurrence indeed, disregarding for the moment that such manifestations (poltergeists and so on) are not at all rare in the vicinity of young people in puberty, and that Jung could have been no stranger to such things on the basis of his own earlier experiences in his parents’ house.
But what could be done to diminish this tension coming from the unconscious, within whose field the whole family seemed to be living?
Once again Jung reached for his pen.
Instinctively seizing on the sentence the “spirits” had uttered, he began the first of the seven Sermones with the declaration, “The dead came back from Jerusalem, where they found not what they sought. They prayed me let them in and besought my word, and thus I began my teaching.”
The Sermones were subtitled “The seven instructions to the dead. Written by Basilides in Alexandria, the city where the East touches the West.”
Basilides (Basileides) was one of the famous Gnostics and thus heretical figures of the second century C.E. Already Hegel had referred to him, in his lectures on the history of philosophy, as one of “the most excellent Gnostics.”
He lived in Alexandria during the reigns of the Roman emperors Hadrian and Antoninus Pius (117-161).
The midpoint of the culture of the ancient world, the city on the Nile delta was indeed a place where the East touched the West, as well as a significant center of Gnosticism and early Christian heresy.
Naturally the text Jung was drawing up was not really to be seen as a treatise on the interpretation of Gnosis.
For he was, for one thing, more the recorder than the author of this text, which might have been inspired by “Philemon.”
For another, the effect of writing it down was striking, for hardly had Jung picked up his pen when the haunting was released.
The tension evaporated, the air cleared, the “spirits” had vanished.
Within three evenings the putative gnostic text was complete.
It spoke from the very outset of the ·”pleroma,” the “fullness” of a divine, spiritual world, which contrasts with that of created things.
Then came the significant point:
We are, however, the pleroma itself, for we are a part of the eternal and infinite. But we have no share thereof, as we are from the pleroma infinitely removed; not spiritually or temporally, but essentially, since we are distinguished from the pleroma in our essence as creature, which is confined within time and space.
Characteristic of the pleroma are a number of pairs of opposites such as good and evil, time and space, light and dark, living and dead-all qualities inherent in human beings.
There is only one drive, namely the aspiration toward our individual nature or self-existence.
In the second sermon the dead ask for instruction about God.
The Basilides of these discourses answers, attesting not only to the fullness of life that is in God and its opposite in the Devil, but also to the “God above God,” the unknown and unconscious which stands above God and Devil as “the effective itself,” embodying force, duration, and change.
Its name is Abraxas.
Then the dead demand further information about this primal being, which is neither the summum bonum nor limitless evil; Abraxas is life, “the mother of good and evil.”
Hence Abraxas begets truth and falsehood. The third sermon continues:
It is the hermaphrodite of the earliest beginning.
It is abundance that seeketh union with emptiness.
It is holy begetting.
It is love and love’s murder.
It is the saint and his betrayer.
It is the brightest light of day and the darkest night of
To look upon it is blindness.
to know it is sickness.
To worship it is death.
To fear it is wisdom.
To resist it not is redemption.
It is mostly beside the point that the historical Basilides, according to the records of Irenaeus of Lyon and Hippolytus of Rome, made many statements concerning an Arbraxas or Abrasax.
Rather one gets the impression, in reading the individual sermones, that these utterances in their hieratic language allowed some of what would enfold in the course of the years as the contents ofJung’s archetypal psychology to show through; later, however, it would be cloaked not in the mythological enigmas borrowed from Alexandrian gnosticism but in the expository prose of analytical psychology, where it would receive its allotted place in the context of anamnesis, analysis, and synthesis.
This psychology can dispense with the mythologizing and even the estheticizing treatment of unconscious contents, to the extent that it succeeds in leaving behind the images, voices, and figures and in maturing by recognizing them.
In the years after 1912, precisely this happened to Jung himself, and often in such a dismaying fashion that he must have been concerned for his own psychic equilibrium and the preservation of his inner sense of direction.
But at the end of this journey into the depths it became clear to him that the insights he had won were not intended only for him.
The experience he had gained proved to be a healing one for others as well:
From then on, my life belonged to the generality. The knowledge I was concerned with, or was seeking, still could not be found in the science of those days. I myself had to undergo the original experience, and, moreover, try to plant the results of my experience in the soil of reality; otherwise they would have remained subjective assumptions without validity. It was then that I dedicated myself to service of the psyche. I loved it and hated it, but it was my greatest wealth. My delivering myself over to it, as it were, was the only way by which I could endure my existence and live it as fully as possible.
These words were written from the perspective of hindsight.
But the pictorial representation of psychic wholeness goes back to the last years of the war.
At that time, in 1916, an inner urge prompted Jung to begin sketching and painting clearly structured pictures.
What emerged were the circular figures known to Indian esoterism as mandalas (Sanskrit mandala, “circle”).
Basically the mandala is a primal symbol of the energy of the human form, which appears in all cultures and religions as the “holy circle” and can also be found in profusion in nature, in the shapes of flowers or radiolarians.
This circumstance itself explains the mandala’s deep-rootedness in the unconscious.
At first Jung, in command of the camp at Chateaux d’Oex, drew such a circle every day.
It was a kind of test; from the spontaneously formed circular structure the experimenter would read his psychic state of affairs at the time.
Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is: “Formation, Transformation, Eternal Mind’s eternal recreation.”
And that is the self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious, but which cannot · tolerate self-deceptions.
My mandalas were cryptograms concerning the state of the self which were presented to me anew each day. In them I saw the self-that is, my whole being-actively at work.
These lines already contain an important element in the interpretation and significance of all that the years between 1912 and 1918 had brought, while at the same time leading toward the answer to the question which Jung had had to ask himself during these years, namely:
What is the real goal of this process, the goal of the nekyia, the journey into the inner depths? What results does it produce?
In the beginning the dominant role had been played by the dynamics of the unconscious itself, the superior power of its images and other manifestations, up to and including the parapsychic phenomena.
The mandalas were already signs that an important point had been reached, the center of which announced unity and psychic completeness (but not completion!).
In this context came the growing insight that the real source of the inner images and voices was not the everyday ego, influenced as it was by desires and interests of all kinds, but an authority superordinate to this ego, which could provide wisdom and leadership, be it through the figure of the wise old Philemon or in the energy lines and ordered structures
of the individual mandalas.
Thus Jung was able to say that the goal of psychic development is clearly the process of self-realization or individuation, in the course of which the great polarities or pairs of opposites in life are merged into a unity: the conscious and (at least partially) the unconscious, the light and the dark, and the masculine and the feminine, in the form of the soul-image which constitutes the inner femininity of the man (anima) and the inner masculinity of the woman (animus).
Several more years had still to pass before the inner experience could be confirmed and secured through definite evidence, for example the encounter with the spiritual world of the East as provided by such personalities as Richard Wilhelm and Heinrich Zimmer, as well as many more years of investigations into alchemy.
Thus the expenditure of time which C. G. Jung’s work demanded was considerable.
He himself spoke of the forty-five years that had been necessary before his unique experience could be scientifically formulated and converted into therapy and practice.
This is what must be borne in mind when we are confronted, unprepared, with certain statements of analytical psychology which cannot be unlocked by rational effort alone, but require patient acceptance.
On the question of what his period of confrontation with the unconscious had produced, and what value it could claim within the larger context of his biography and his work, Jung concluded:
the early imaginations and dreams were like a fiery stream of basalt; out of them crystallized the stone which I could then work on.
The years when I was pursuing my inner images were the most important in my life-in them everything essential was decided.
It all began then; the later details are only supplements and clarifications of the material that burst forth from the unconscious, and at first swamped me.
It was the prima materia for a lifetime’s work. ~Gerhard Wehr, “Jung” by Gerhard Wehr, Pages 165-198