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

C. G. Jung: A Personal Memoir by Elizabeth Osterman

The heavy wooden door on which I had just knocked was set in a thick stone wall which seemed solidly part of the earth.

This was the entryway to the medieval-looking, secluded country place which Jung had built by hand through the years at Bollingen on the shore of Lake Zurich.

On my way to the Aegean Islands on this first trip away from the western United States, I had stopped in Switzerland for this visit.

Leaving the highway some distance from the town of Rapperswill, I had traversed a footpath which skirted a dense wood at the rear of a complex of walls and stone towers.

A few feet away to my left the lake water lapped among the reeds.

The July sun warmed the rain-dampened earth, and a soft haze covered the distant mountains.

As I stood waiting before the door I was somewhat nervous, but was reassured by sounds of wood-chopping coming from behind the wall.

I was trying to accustom myself to the fact that I was actually going to meet this man who indirectly had influenced my adult life so profoundly, who, in fact, had changed its entire course and had made possible for me personally and professionally an unbelievable sense of rootedness and potential self-realization.

Ten years previously, when working through a deep analysis with one of his students in San Francisco, I had had a ‘big dream’.

Its effect had been numinous, powerful, and lasting.

Before the dream I had been studying to be a specialist in internal medicine; afterwards, there was no question.

The M.D. degree would be used instead as requisite background for becoming a depth psychologist .

Jung had shown the way for a doctor to do this, that is, not only to study psychiatry but to plumb with help the depths of his own inner world, to discover the roots of his being, to live close to his own nature; in other words, to integrate the unconscious to the extent possible.

I had been busy at this for several years now, and the trip was part of the process. I had not thought of trying to see Jung.

Why should I claim some of his precious time?

Perhaps not much more of it was left to him. But a wise friend had insisted and had made arrangements.

Now the door opened, and I was invited into the inner garden by his household companion.

There, beyond a second doorway, was the strong-bodied, white-haired, eighty-three-year-old man in his green workman’s apron, seated before the chopping block.

Behind him was a large square stone carved by him in earlier years when he was attempting to give form to his emerging realizations.

I felt as though I had stepped out of time and had entered into an inner world where everything was relevant, unhurried, natural.

At the water’s edge we settled into comfortable chairs, and through that afternoon the conversation wandered back into the prehistory of the earth, into the depths of the psyche, into the wonders of nature around us.

Once I looked at my watch and he said, ‘Never mind a watch; I’ll tell you.’

He returned frequently to the theme of what man is doing to himself by living in a fast and meaningless way, how he has become estranged from himself.

With immediacy and great simplicity he said: ‘We must give time to nature so that she may be a mother to us.

I have found the way to live here as part of nature, to live in my own time.

People in the modern world are always living so that something better is to happen tomorrow, always in the future, so they don’t think to live their lives.

They are up in the head.

When a man begins to know himself, to discover the roots of his past in himself, it is a new way of life.’

The force that emanated from this man sitting beside me was amazing. He seemed at once powerful and simple; real, the way the sky and rocks and trees and water around him were real.

He seemed to be all there in his own nature, but what made it so exciting was his awareness of it.

A knock on the door broke into the conversation; the taximan had arrived. Jung remarked, ‘That says it.’

It was time to leave.

With much warmth I wished him health, fulfillment in a personal sense, peace.

I closed the door and stood feeling bereft of the vital connection I had experienced.

As I walked away on the path, I began to recall the dream I had dreamt ten years before.

In part, it was that I was working at a drug counter dispensing pills (I was working in a medical clinic at the time).

Out in the street I saw a procession of a dozen or so men and women in simple dark robes.

They were bearing a coffin which contained the body of a seer, a great wise man.

He was associated in my mind with Jung.

I joined them as they proceeded down the street into a square, ground-floor room.

They opened the coffin lid so that he would be with them.

There was an inward sense of common humanity in those present, a feeling of reverence and profound concern.

My analyst was conducting the rites, partly from a natural memory of how they went, and partly from an outline on the folder which he held in his hands.

This was an illuminated medieval manuscript on which the seer who had died had written a condensation of what he had come to know about man’s nature, temperament, needs, longings.

My analyst finished reading the words in the main body of the manuscript, then he handed the folder to me to read the words inscribed on three sides around the border in the illumination.

These, the last he had written, were: ‘And all of these things each man must find in his own nature.’ ~Elizabeth Osterman, Contact with Jung, Pages 217-220.