DOCTORS ON HOLIDAY ON THE RIGI By Dr. Esther Harding
Introduction: The founding of the C. G. Jung Institute in April 1948 brought many of Jung’s friends and pupils to Zurich. (For Jung’s address on the occasion, see CW 18, pars. 1129ff.)
In June, for the first time since before the War, Esther Harding (see above, p. 25) and her friend and colleague Eleanor Bertine, traveled from New York. Dr. Bertine (1887-1968), American by origin and training, shared with Dr. Harding the leadership of the Jungian movement in the eastern United States.
After returning from abroad, her Report from Zurich was brought out as a pamphlet by the Analytical Psychology Club of New York, 1948.
It dealt chiefly with the organization of the Institute, but a more personal excerpt under the above title was included in Memories and Perspectives Marking the Centennial of C. G. Jung’s Birth (published
privately by the Club, 1975), and this version is printed here.
Dr. Harding’s journal entries for her visit at the same time are given afterward.
Dr. Esther Harding: We arrived in Switzerland at the very height of rose-time.
I think I never saw so many roses in my life, garden roses and climbing roses, wild roses and tame.
One thing that strikes an American abroad, as a lot of you know, is that literally every inch of land is used, either fertilized for grazing or agriculture, or allocated to timber production, or else made into the ubiquitous gardens by which every peasant’s cottage, as well as every mansion, is surrounded.
All the villages looked like blooming rose-gardens.
We well remembered, on this return, the majesty of the mountains, but we had almost forgotten the quaint loveliness of every little hamlet.
For us, of course, the country round about Kusnacht was filled with memories of steps and stages on the inner way which had been accomplished there.
It was under a particular tree that heavy thoughts had clustered like ripe fruit, yon forest had been a place of darkness of spirit, but clarification had come while swinging down the steep hill above the village just as twilight was falling.
All the sounds, too, brought repercussions from the past, the thrice-repeated ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong announcing train time at the station, the splash of the little lake boats pulling up to a stop just under our window, the chimes of half a dozen churches ringing the quarter hour from near at hand and from across the lake.
All were so utterly familiar, so unchanged by all the violence of the intervening years.
But the goal for which we had made the pilgrimage was, of course, to see Dr. Jung.
So we were delighted to get a call bright and early the morning after our arrival giving us an appointment for the following morning.
He had explained previously that he could no longer carry the burden of people’s personal problems, but that he would be glad to talk with us about anything else we wished.
We found him looking older, of course, for the twelve years since we had been there; his hair was snow white, but he appeared well and more full of ideas and of mental vitality than ever.
He had so much to give that he seemed actually to need to give it.
Physically, we were told, he readily gets over-tired and then he goes rapidly downhill.
His illness has left him with only a small reserve, and he has to live within rather rigid limits.
But within those limits, he is magnificent.
Talking did not seem to tire him, and he poured out treasures lavishly, from what seemed to be an inexhaustible fund of wisdom.
He said that he had thought old age would be a rather dull time of decrease and inaction, but actually it was most exciting. “You just sit quietly in one place and absolutely everything comes right to your door-
The hard digging and delving that he has done all his life in pioneering this new way into the psyche seems now to be bearing fruit in the form of a great wealth of spontaneous ideas.
Indeed all during his illness, he told us, ideas were flooding up, even in his delirium, which he is still trying to evaluate and record.
His literary output is enormous.
At present he is engaged in redoing Psychology of the Unconscious, writing another book on alchemy and one on the Self.
And of course he gives a lot of time to the Institute and to the working out of all the myriad details connected with getting it well started.
And finally, he is continually visited by scholars interested in psychology and all the numerous fields which touch upon it, men and women who bring their special points of view to him and seek something of his integrating wisdom.
So, in spite of physical limitations, he is an immensely hard worker.
He said that, a while ago when he had gone off to the mountains for a much-needed rest and vacation, he had made up his mind that he had done his bit and had about come to the end of his assignment.
So he wasn’t going to have any more ideas, please.
But that very night the conception of the central theme of the book on the Self forced itself upon him, and there was nothing for it but to set to work on another big undertaking.
Dr. Jung was, as he put it, “not quite pessimistic” about the inevitability of the destruction of our civilization.
He found some indications—quite slight clues, to be sure—in the dreams of all sorts of people and in the particular way that certain things have happened, which suggest that this moment, with its upheaval and disorder, may be truly the transition to a new order, as we have all been hoping for so long.
He said that the uprush of brutality, which he had observed so generally in dreams of Germans before the War, was giving way to constructive symbols of a new phase.
One rather interesting astrological fact, he noted, is that the line of the ecliptic, at present traversing the second fish of the sign of Pisces, the fish of the Anti-Christ, does not pass through its head but below.
This would mean that, according to the stars, the sinister forces do not reach their maximum, do not quite “come to a head.”
Of course he made no claim to be a prophet, but merely an observer of whatever indications there might be.
At the end of the morning, Dr. Jung proposed that we join him for a long week-end trip, Thursday to Monday, on the Rigi.
We had heard that he was planning a holiday and would be out of town for about a week, which we naturally took as our bad luck, never dreaming of such a windfall as this.
He knew of a charming little inn recently built on a saddle just below the summit of the mountain, and said he would ask Miss Schmid to engage the rooms for us all. Mrs. Jung had hoped to go but couldn’t manage it just then.
Miss Wolff would try to get up by Saturday night.
So Thursday morning we met Dr. Jung at the railroad station.
He was carrying a fat and heavy briefcase which held the manuscript of the book he had brought along to work on.
That did not look much like a holiday to us, but fortunately it was never opened all the time we were there.
The mountain and talk claimed every minute.
Each morning, right after breakfast, we all fared forth for a tramp.
The Rigi is a fairly domesticated mountain, at least a cogwheel railroad runs up to the top from each side, and there are many trails crisscrossing the slopes, where they are not too steep.
Dr. Jung, needlessly apologetic, set the pace slow enough for us to keep up without having had a chance to get into training beforehand.
For actually he was able to do as much as we cared to.
There were benches placed here and there at particularly beautiful spots where we could sit down and divide our attention about evenly between the view and the talk.
As you may remember, the Rigi rears steeply above Lucerne across from the sharp peaks of Pilatus, with the gem-like chain of lakes of the Vierwaldstdttersee strung out at its feet. In the distance, across lower snow ranges, tower the giants of the Bernese Oberland.
Wherever you look, your eye is caught and held by something you want to be able always to remember.
Dr. Jung pointed to the sheer face of a cliff, asking, “Do you see that door ?”
We looked hard and could see nothing but unbroken rock.
Then he pointed out the line of a ledge and above it the faintest bit of roughness. It was the door of a cave in the cliff, one of many made by the Swiss army as a means of defending the mountains when they momently expected invasion.
The plan was to abandon the northern plain, where Zurich is located, and to retire into the mountains and fight there to the last ditch.
The Swiss meant it, too, and that spirit was probably what saved them.
After lunch, and there is no problem in getting all you want to eat and drink in Switzerland if you can pay for it, there was time for a little rest, then we came together again for tea and another walk, then dinner and more talk until far into the night.
And such talk!
Dr. Jung was in top form, and the conversation ranged over everything conceivable, from the sublime to the ridiculous, from samples of his inimitable Rabelaisian wit to the meaning of faith.
He told us about his experiences under threat of invasion during the war, about the visit of Churchill to Switzerland, which was like a triumphal procession, and the talks he had had with —or perhaps I should rather say had heard from—him.
Dr. Jung spoke of the United States and its overwhelming job of world leadership.
I said that this had not been sought or wanted by our country, and I questioned whether we wereready to carry such a responsibility.
His answer was that the United States must not stay immature now, or it will be at the peril of the whole world.
“Only you have the power, you must take the responsibility that goes with it.”
He thought it most necessary that we be firm with Russia or Russia will certainly control Europe.
Like all the other Europeans I talked with, including some who had previously been far from pro-American, he was immensely appreciative of the Marshall Plan, and hoped that we would be firm and definite about laying down conditions for its operation.
I asked whether that would not bring everybody down on us, with the accusation that we were using dollars to dominate the world.
He agreed that it would, but said that such was the inevitable price of power.
“You cannot at once hold power and avoid criticism, for what you don’t do, if not for what you do.”
He thought we would have to accept that fact and go ahead, for the European countries could not agree among themselves.
There was too much long and bitter history dividing them.
In these long hours in the mountains, Dr. Jung reminisced about his own past experiences, his trips to Africa and to India, the long anxiety during the period of Hitler’s domination.
And then, one morning, sitting in an outdoor terrace cafe looking over the deep valley with its emerald green lake and on to the snow peaks beyond, he took us to the mountains of the mind, as he told us of his latest idea of the psyche.
This is the basis of his new book on the Self and will be the culmination of his life’s work, the final great step in integration of a career outstandingly devoted to the integrative processes, both in knowledge and in life.
He has found a symbol of the psychic structure which joins into an organic unity everything from the mineral world through the animal, the unconscious and ordinary consciousness up to the Anthropos, which is quality-less and so, like the old Uroboros, touches the primordial condition of Chaos with its forces constituting matter, from which the whole cycle springs again.
It all was most suggestive and exciting, but too much to take in at one telling.
Though he drew diagrams to elucidate his thought, I admit to a feeling rather like my reaction many years ago when I first contacted his work through Psychology of the Unconscious.
It was: “There speaks the master. I do not understand, but, please God, I shall before I die.”
The elaboration of these new ideas will, I think, bring some light to the dim inter-region between psyche and body, as well as that between psychology and physics.
Anyway we felt that the companion with whom we sat waiting for the drinks to be brought on that mountain terrace had himself given us a drink from the cup of pure genius.
Of course the days on the Rigi were the high point of the trip.
It is impossible to be with Dr. Jung without a constant sense that the inner world of the unconscious is a vital fact, ever-present in the room.
The habitual directness of his connection with the actual libido of the moment is more like that of the animal than of the usual man of today.
One feels that he has fully completed the cycle from the experience of blind instinct through ego-consciousness and back to a broad conscious relation to the powerful but mysterious tides of the unconscious.
His talk moves back and forth from the obvious facts and events of the outer world to the subtle and irrational manifestations of another to which he grants an exactly equal validity and weight.
That this is no mere lip service, no mere intellectual point of view, is shown in the freeing effect he produces upon practically everybody, not too congealed by the fear that this man may somehow be going to crack up his well-tailored persona and reveal matters too disturbing to be welcome.
But, though Dr. Jung’s talk is rich in references to experiences which are ordinarily explained by a priori interpretations from the realms of mysticism or superstition, he is utterly sure-footed in keeping to the line that differentiates the facts which you experience—the observed data—from what you think about them and the names you call them by.
He himself is frequently thinking about them, rescuing them from the scrapheap of mere fantasy and superstition and seeking an explanation for them consonant with the findings of modern psychology.
Certainly he does not hesitate to incur the criticism, once seriously levelled against him by a psychologist at the New School, to the effect that “Jung is more concerned with religious phenomena than is compatible with scientific respectability!”
He even strayed so far into “scientific disrespectability” as to tell us about a magician whom he knows personally and who has talked freely to him.
The man is a Swiss peasant who lives up in the hills above Bollingen, conscientiously practicing his profession.
He trusted Dr. Jung, and told him willingly many stories of his successes with magic, producing in evidence a drawer full of testimonials and letters of appreciation from “grateful patients.”
He even brought out his greatest treasure, a book of spells for making magic in the name of Baldur, or of Venus, or of other thoroughly pagan gods.
This little volume, believe it or not, he claimed had been presented to him by a monk!
Apparently these invocations of highly questionable powers had not disturbed the peace of mind of the good friar in the least. Indeed magic flourishes, very much as of yore in out-of-the-way places in Switzerland.
And not only there, one might add. I have been repeatedly asked since our return,
How does Dr. Jung really feel about the campaign against him as a Nazi sympathizer?
That question cannot be answered quite simply, even if I could be sure of interpreting his reaction correctly, for the reply would have to depend upon the level of consciousness with which the interrogation was
On the surface level it is deeply painful to him to have his name associated with the unspeakable horrors perpetrated with deliberate intent by the German government.
Such vilification as he has received, and even the simple lack of understanding it implies, of all he has stood for in his entire life and work, cannot fail to hurt a man of his sensibility.
But on another plane, it just does not touch him.
While there are undoubtedly some venomous motives at work, the whole attack can also be regarded as on more manifestation of the fact that he stirs the unconscious to such an extent that he is inevitably mythlogized as god or devil.
He has had that experience before many times, and takes it in his stride as a part of life, a phenomenon to be accepted, rather than an offense to be personally resented.
Indeed, Dr. Jung has a deep realization that, to be complete, the very godhead must include the devil, and human beings must accordingly find an adjustment to that fact and not just childishly reiterate that it oughtn’t to be.
So, with respect to the attacks against himself, he pulls up his collar and goes about his business, without getting unduly involved.
But to get on with my story.
Saturday Miss Wolff arrived with her little dog.
Though badly hampered by rheumatism, from which she has been a great sufferer, she gamely came along Sunday morning when we climbed to the pinnacle of the Rigi.
Mrs. Jung, who had expected to get up that evening, was delayed by the death and funeral of a long-standing member of the Zurich Club, whom some of you will undoubtedly remember, Herr Dr. Schlegel.
Dr. Jung asked us to stay over until Tuesday in order to see her, but we had a dinner engagement with friends who had come to Zurich from southern Switzerland for a visit with us, so we had to leave before she arrived, greatly to our regret. ~Carl Jung, C.G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters and Pages 171-179
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