Dear friend, 16 April 1901
I hope this letter doesn’t reach you for a while.
I’m sure you see what I mean.
I simply prefer to write now while the feelings aroused by your last letter are still fresh.
I wrote your wife a card from Venice, where I went on an Easter trip in the vain hope of getting a foretaste of spring and a little rest.
I thought you were already bicycling in northern Italy.
It is strange that on the very same evening when I formally adopted you as eldest son and anointed you-in partibus infideliumt-e-es my successor and crown prince, you should have divested me of my paternal dignity, which divesting seems to have given you as much pleasure as I, on the contrary, derived from the investiture ‘of your person.
Now I am afraid of falling back into the father role with you if I tell you how I feel about the poltergeist business.
But I must, because my attitude is not what you might otherwise think.
I don’t deny that your stories and your experiment made a deep impression on me.
I decided to continue my observations after you left, and here are the results.
In my first room there is constant creaking where the two heavy Egyptian steles rest on the oaken boards of the bookshelves. T
hat is too easy to explain. In the second, where we heard it, there is seldom any creaking.
At first I was inclined to accept this as proof, if the sound that was so frequent while you were here were not heard again after your departure-but since then I have heard it repeatedly, not, however, in connection with my thoughts and never when I am thinking about you or this particular problem of yours. (And not at the present moment, I add by way of a challenge.)
But this observation was soon discredited by another consideration.
My credulity, or at least my willingness to believe, vanished with the magic of your personal presence; once again, for some inward reasons that I can’t put my finger on, it strikes me as quite unlikely that such phenomena should exist; I confront the despiritualized furniture as the poet confronted undeified Nature after the gods of Greece had passed away.”
Accordingly, I put my fatherly horned-rimmed spectacles on again and warn my dear son to keep a coo] head, for it is better not to under~ stand something than make such great sacrifices to understanding.
I also shake my wise head over psychosynthesis and think: Yes, that’s how the young people are, the only places they really enjoy visiting are those they can visit without us, to which we with our short breath and weary Iegs cannot follow them.
Then, invoking the privilege of my years, I become garrulous and speak of one more thing between heaven and earth that we ‘cannot understand.’
Some years ago I discovered within me the conviction that I would die between the ages of 61 and 62, which then struck me as a long time away. (Today it is only eight years off.) T
hen I went to Greece with my brother” and it was really uncanny how often the number 61 or 60 in connection with I or 2 kept cropping up in all sorts of numbered objects, especially those connected with transportation.
This I conscientiously noted.
It depressed me, but I had hopes of breathing easy when we got to the hotel in Athens and were assigned rooms on the first floor.
Here, I was sure, there could be no No. 61.
I was right, but I was given 31 (which with fatalistic licence could be regarded as half of 61 or 62), and this younger, more agile number proved to be an even more persisent persecutor than the first.
From the time of our trip home until very recently, 31, often with a 2 in its vicinity, clung to me faithfully. Since my mind also includes areas that are merely eager for knowledge and not at all superstitious, I have since attempted an analysis of this belief, and here it is.
It made its appearance in 1899.
At that time two events occurred.
First I wrote The Interpretation of Dreams (which appeared postdated 1900), second, I received a new telephone number, which I still have today: 14362.
It is easy to find a factor common to these two events.
In 1899 when I wrote The Interpretation of Dreams I was 43 years old.
Thus it was plausible to suppose that the other figures signified the end of my life, hence 61 or 62.
Suddenly method entered into my madness.”
The superstitious notion that I would die between the ages of 61 and 62 proves to coincide with the conviction that with The Interpretation of Dreams I had completed my life work, that there was nothing more for me to do and that I might just as well lie down and die.
You will admit that after this substitution it no longer sounds so absurd.
Moreover, the hidden influence of W. Fliess was at work; the superstition erupted in the year of his attack on me.
You will see in this another confirmation of the specifically Jewish nature of my mysticism, Otherwise I incline to explain such obsessions as this with the number 61 by two factors, first heightened, unconsciously motivated attention of the sort that sees Helen in every woman,’ and second by the undeniable “compliance of chance,” which plays the same part in the formation of delusions as somatic compliance in that of hysterical symptoms, and linguistic compliance in the generation of puns.
Consequently, I shall receive further news of your investigations of the spook complex with the interest one accords to a charming delusion in which one does not oneself participate.
With kind regards to you, your wife and children,
Yours, FREUD ~Sigmund Freud, Freud-Jung Letters, Pages 218-220