Contact with Jung: Essays on the influence of his work and personality

A Tribute to C.G. Jung by A. I. Allenby

I first got in touch with Jung after the end of the second world war. I then wrote to him, and told him who I was and what I was doing, which included writing a thesis on the psychology of religion.

With his reply Jung sent the manuscript of his article on the Trinity-a new version which had not yet appeared in print.

This was generous indeed, and an endearing token of encouragement for the complete stranger that I was to him then.

Only about a month before his death I again received a letter from Jung, in reply to one of mine, in which he went with great care into all the questions I had raised.

It ended with these words: ‘My best wishes for any further discoveries you may make.’

This is the first characteristic one encountered in Jung: his respect for the other person, whoever he or she might be, and his concern for the individual value in anyone.

When I first went to visit him at Kusnacht, I was full of apprehension as to how I should fare in meeting the great man-but the moment I entered his intimate little study I felt completely at ease.

All the people I know who have met Jung have told me the same.

Throughout these years I have spent many an hour with Jung in his study, discussing various matters which were of importance for me at the time; and he always gave the same lively attention to
whatever I had come to consult him about.

The man who has left us the fruits of an incredible amount of work and thought never

seemed to be hurried when one was with him.

When I came to him with dreams whose apparent obscurity puzzled me, he would search his bookcases for ancient documents, read them out, and talk of corresponding experiences of his own-and one felt that one was searching together with him for the meaning of it all.

And something else stands out for me.

Jung would always discuss the personal in a framework of wider reference, and so give it back with new values added to it.

I felt this very strongly in his later years.

It seemed to me as if his capacity to listen and to absorb every detail did not diminish in old age but, on the contrary, increased.

The small as well as the larger issues seemed to assume in his mind-just as in the late paintings of the great masters-the quality of glowing but transparent colours, reflecting a light not their own, on a broad canvas.

But it must not be thought that Jung was always solemn.

He would tell the funniest stories in illustration of a point he wanted to make, and laugh uproariously himself.

Once he wanted me to understand that one should not feel guilty about events which happen on their own account. ‘

They are just like acts of God,’ he said.

‘Think of it as if a building had been hit by lightning; that, also, is an act of God.

There was a church in a Swiss village which had been damaged by lightning, and the pastor went round the village to collect money for the repairs, and one shrewd old peasant said to him:

“What-you are not going to make me give you anything, if he destroys his own house!” That man had got it right,’ Jung said and laughed.

On another occasion Jung explained to me what happens when one mistrusts one’s feelings and refuses to act on them.

‘You can see from the window my boathouse down by the lake,’ he said.

‘Some time ago I went for a swim and then lay on the balcony of the boathouse to sun myself.

The level of the lake was so high that the boathouse was surrounded by water.

There came my dog in search of me.

He could not see me, and was not sure whether I was there.

Being of a somewhat cowardly disposition and not very fond of the wet, the dog first put one paw into the water, then withdrew it, and then another paw and withdrew it, too.

And this went on for some time.

Eventually I made the faintest little noise, and the dog shot through the water and up the steps of the boathouse in one jump.

The dog is conditioned by instinct and has no will-power of his own, except when a little noise from his master releases it.’

Jung, of course, wanted to convey to me, although he left it to me to draw the conclusion, that a person who mistrusts his own feelings or thoughts and does not utilize his will to put them to the test is hardly distinguishable from an animal; as a conscious human being he hardly exists.

Another time Jung reverted to the problem of self-doubt, using a further example by way of illustration. ‘Our needs and desires are always active,’ he said. ‘

Trouble occurs only if they are active in the unconscious, if we do not take them consciously in hand so as to give them a definite form and direction.

If we refuse to do this we are dragged along by them and become their victim.

Then they are like a sledge rushing downhill in the snow, with no one at the steering-ropes.

You must place yourself firmly at the steering-ropes, not hang on at the back or, worse, be unwilling to take the ride at all-that only lands you in panic.

Our unconscious energies give momentum to our journey through life and, if we direct their course, our actions will have strength; we may even sense that God is behind us.’

This sounds like a very simple prescription for wholesome living.

Jung would have been the last to say that it is, in fact, simple, for he was deeply concerned with the duality of human nature.

If we learn to accept, and thereby in some measure to control, what drives us anyhow, we cannot but come face to face with what is inferior or evil in us.

But only in facing it do we give it a chance to be transmuted. Jung could be scathing about people who are so intent on doing good that they never ask themselves who the person is who wants to obliterate himself in good works.

He told me that he once met a distinguished man, a Quaker, who could not imagine that he had ever done anything wrong in his life.

‘And do you know what happened to his children?’ Jung asked.

‘The son became a thief, and the daughter a prostitute.

Because the father would not take on his shadow, his share in the imperfection of human nature, his children were compelled to live out the dark side which he had ignored.’

At bottom, Jung was, perhaps, a passionate moralist.

His morality is different from that in which most of us have been brought up; it is at the same time more permissive and more exacting.

It is, above all, a morality deeply rooted in faith-faith in the value of the individual, and faith in the creative potentiality of the unconscious.

For instance, I remember Jung stating on one occasion: ‘Every human being is inherently a unique and individual form of life. He is made like that.

But there is something which man can do over and above the given material of his nature, and that is he can become conscious of what makes him the person he is, and he can work consciously towards relating what is himself to the world around him.

And,’ Jung added reflectively, ‘this is perhaps all we can do.’

Another time he said to me, as if he were speaking to himself:

‘This is how you must live-without reservation, whether in giving or withholding, according to what the circumstances require.

Then you will get through.

After all, if you should still get stuck, there is always the enantiodromia from the unconscious, which opens new avenues when conscious will and vision are failing.’

Jung himself was, of course, an outstanding example of his own philosophy.

Even if we cannot compare ourselves with a man of genius, who stands out like a mountain peak above the lowly foothills, we may yet take courage from his example.

Such rich equipment went into the making of Jung’s nature: passionate impulses, a powerful intellect able to profit from centuries of human thought, as well as the capacity to wonder and take nothing for granted, and thus strike fresh sparks from what the average person would not even have noticed.

All this, and more, was apparent in the exceptional degree of consciousness Jung achieved.

This enabled him to endure the inevitable isolation of his stature, but it also enabled him to spend himself unsparingly, on his work, his patients, his family and friends, and on many troubled issues of our time.

A consciousness thus illumined becomes a new point of departure, in that the spiritual energies of the age take on a new direction, whether people know it or not.

It is, perhaps, the ultimate function of rare great men, like Jung, that in seeing what they have done we realize what the spirit in man is capable of achieving, and to what end it is given him and it fills our hearts with hope. ~A.I. Allenby, Contact with Jung, Pages 68-70