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

The Early Days by M. Esther Harding

That C. G. Jung was a giant among men must be obvious to all who have had even a slight acquaintance with the man or his writings, but for many today the beginnings of his work, reaching back to the turn of the century, must seem to grow out of a dim past.

His work breaks upon them fully developed; for them it is almost impossible to conceive of a world where the concepts he elaborated were still lying dormant in the unconscious waiting for the creative mind of a genius to discover.

Jung’s early papers on word association tests will soon be republished in the Collected Works; his writings on dementia praecox and other case studies have already appeared.

These are readily available to the student.

Although his laboratory experiments confirmed the results of earlier observers, Jung’s chief interest was caught by reactions that did not conform to the general rule.

These, although they had been discarded by statistically minded observers, aroused his lively curiosity.

For throughout his life he was always interested in exceptions and anomalies and border-line phenomena, and it was in these neglected fields that he found his greatest treasures.

Jung was a younger man than most of the group that gathered round Freud, and he outlived most if not all of them.

Freud’s influence, great as it undoubtedly was, affected him less than the others.

And, as he lived in Switzerland, his work was done much more independently than theirs, a fact that is evidenced by the striking originality of his early papers on psychological subjects.

In 1909 he attended the Conference on Psycho-analysis at Clark University, Worcester, U.S.A., where both he and Freud read papers.

They spent eight weeks together and discussed many things, including their own dreams.

But Freud insisted on interpreting the collective images in Jung’s dreams reductively, which Jung felt to be both inadequate and wrong.

Jung again visited America in 1912, when he gave his well-known lectures on The Theory of Psychoanalysis at Fordham University.

Already his ideas were going beyond the rather rigid framework of Freud’s theory, and in his preface to the published lectures he wrote:

‘To me it seems that psychoanalysis stands in need of this weighing-up from inside . . . my criticism does not proceed from academic arguments, but from experiences which have forced themselves on me during the ten years of serious work in this field . . . it seems to me that certain of my formulations do express the observed facts more suitably than Freud’s version
of them.’

One cannot but be impressed with the restraint and tolerance of these words in contrast to the bitterness of Freud’s attacks on Jung after the publication of his book, Symbols of Transformation, with its revolutionary ideas in regard to the unconscious.

But Freud could not accept book, for it that the unconscious, far from being merely the repository of repressed and unacceptable memories and wishes, was actually the creative source of psychic life itself.

He took its publication as a direct affront to his authority and, as Jung maintained his position, a conflict arose that led to a permanent breach between the two men.

Jung continued to work alone for some years, and mostly in silence.

It was not until 1920 that he began, rather tentatively at first, to teach a small group of students.

His lectures were given in English, for the English had shown themselves more receptive to his ideas than had the German-speaking people, who were more closely identified with Freud and his group.

In 1920 he met with a small number of students-about six-for regular discussions, in his home in Kusnacht. H. G. Baynes and Eleanor Bertine were present at these gatherings and, in the
September of that year, Jung was invited to go to England to teach a small group of student analysts and analysands, who gathered at Sennen Cove, in Cornwall, for an unforgettable two

Jung took as his theme a book entitled Authentic Dreams of Peter Blobbs, and, using these reputed dreams as his theme, he discussed the method of dream analysis that he was beginning to develop.

In contrast to Freud, Jung was already using controlled, instead of unlimited, free associations.

These he supplemented with relevant material from myth and religious symbolism, to fill out and elucidate the dream content, though the term amplification was not then in use.

For at this time the major concepts of analytical psychology remained unformulated and largely unrecognized.

As Jung once said in speaking of the anima and animus: ‘They had not been born yet.’

On his return to London, Jung continued to meet with some of the group.

Psychological Types was nearing completion and parts of the first draft were read in translation.

Jung walked up and down the room, smoking his pipe, and looking anything but pleased.

Finally he was heard to mutter: ‘But this is difficult!’

Three years later, in 1923, the experiment of a convention or seminar, as these gatherings came to be called, was held, again in Cornwall, at Polzeath.

This conference was arranged by Baynes and the present writer, and about thirty people gathered at that remote little seaside place.

They all stayed at the only hotel and met daily for lectures in the village. hall.

The group consisted mostly of English people, but a few came from America, while Mrs. Jung, Miss Wolff, and one or two others arrived with Jung from Switzerland.

Of the seven analysts present at that gathering, only Eleanor Bertine and myself are still alive.

In the summer of 1925 a third seminar was held, at Swanage, England. There was a rather larger group this time, about fifty.

Jung lectured for two hours each day.

The weather was atrocious and, since the meetings were held in a tent in the middle of a hayfield, Jung’s voice was accompanied by a constant pat-pat of rain on the canvas roof.

Unfortunately, there is no official report of the three early seminars, but I took rather full notes of the last two and I must rely on them for a brief report.

No one could attend a conference by Jung without being deeply impressed, not only by the content of his lectures, but, perhaps even more, by the man himself

In those early days one was particularly impressed by his vigor, his originality, his versatility and erudition, as well as by his command of English.

Although at that time this was not as perfect as in later years, even then it was fluent, vigorous, full of humor, and often spiced with both English and American slang.

When a game involving a wide knowledge of English was played by the entire group, it was Jung who came out as winner even over those whose native language it was.

This incident had occurred at Sennen Cove in 1920.

By 1923, when he began the seminar at Polzeath, not only had his English become more fluent but his ideas, too, had developed enormously, so that now he spoke with authority.

He was no longer under Freud’s shadow, but had begun to realize his unique genius.

The subject he chose was ‘The Technique of Analysis’.

Although much of the content of these lectures appeared subsequently, scattered through his later writings, the material as a whole has never been published.

He began by differentiating between the ‘free association’ employed by Freud, that inevitably leads back to one of the basic instincts, sexuality or power, and ‘controlled association’,
the method he had devised, by which the symbol is enriched, so revealing its particular meaning in the context of the dream.

In this way a compensation for the one-sidedness of the conscious attitude is disclosed.

Jung went on to discuss the transference and its contents personal and collective-with their emotional values, the meaning of projection; the negative aspect of transference ‘which brings up all the dirty, perverted, and repressed material’ of the unconscious.

He pointed out that the analyst should react to the patient and differentiate him from his material; and went on to discuss the handling of the transference, showing that the analyst must allow himself to become involved to a certain extent in the process and give his own real reactions to the patient’s material.

When collective elements begin to enter the transference situation it means that the patient’s Weltanschauung is too limited, the old collective ideas under which he has lived are outworn and must be replaced by a new ruling principle.

In this context he discussed the dream of the Black and the White Magicians, to which frequent reference has been made in his various books.

But here he gave a considerably fuller interpretation than any appearing subsequently, showing how the dream foretells the imminent death of the ruling principle, the king, a fact that releases the anima in her black, instinctual aspect.

Only the Black Magician was wise enough to follow her and find the key to the new country-the key to paradise.

But he could not unlock the gates.

The White Magician was needed for this.

Jung implied, very clearly, that he considered that this dream not only pointed to a revolution in the ideas of one young man, but that it also indicated a far-reaching change of
world ideas, immanent in the historical moment when it was dreamed.

And, indeed, the events of subsequent years have substantiated his interpretation of the meaning of the dream.

Jung ended the seminar by a brief account of the method of active imagination, though that term was not then in use.

He spoke of how, by concentrating on the images of fantasy or dream, the contents of the collective unconscious could be activated and made conscious; and if the ego could establish a relation to them, the process of individuation was initiated, though this term had not been coined as yet, either.

In 1925 the third conference was held at Swanage.

The title of this series of lectures was ‘Dreams and Symbolism’.

Jung started by giving an account of the history of dream interpretation.

He cited a number of dreams recorded from ancient times and pointed out that they were all deep dreams, full of representations collectives.

These, of course, correspond to archetypal images, but Jung had not at that time begun to use this term.

He quoted Pythagoras as saying that dreams came from the all-pervading divine mind, putting this statement side by side with his own ideas of the collective unconscious.

He then proceeded to compare the interpretation given by the old writers of some of these dreams with his own interpretation of them.

But the art of dream interpretation was lost, he said, after the antique period, until Freud rediscovered it.

In order to demonstrate his own method, Jung proceeded to discuss two long series of dreams, the first those of a middle-aged woman, the second of a young man.

In the wornan’s case the dreams were personal in character, whereas the young man’s were collective, i.e. archetypal.

The contrast between the two series was brought out in the most striking manner.

In summing up Jung said: ‘To have a great dream is a revelation of the new aspect of the world, but it is dangerous.

To have trivial dreams is more, more ordinary; but where triviality is the disease (as it was with the woman patient) it would be an advantage to have deep dreams.’

It is most instructive to observe how many of the basic concepts of analytical psychology were already in process of formulation at this early conference.

It is true that they underwent considerable further elaboration in subsequent years, and many of them were renamed, while others of equal importance were added, but in these first seminars Jung was able to make a sketch map of the new territory he was destined to explore so fully during subsequent decades.

And it is really amazing to see how little these early formulations have needed revision.

Jung’s work was so thorough, so honest, that it has stood the test of the years.

On the foundation he laid, nearly forty years ago, the massive structure of his later work stands secure.

This fact shows the calibre of the man, more, perhaps, than almost anything else.

The flowering of his genius, that began so early, ripened into a harvest that will satisfy the spiritual hunger of mankind in the years to come, but it will take the work of many succeeding generations to garner all the wealth of meaning Jung discovered in his long and fruitful life. ~M. Esther Harding, Contact with Jung, Pages 179-184