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

Jung’s Influence on My Life and Work by John W. Perry

My first encounter with Jung arose out of one of those auspicious blendings of circumstance which seem so often to mark the turning-points in one’s psychic life.

On behalf of my intent to embark upon the field of psychology and religion, my father arranged to meet Jung when in Zurich, and persuaded him to return the visit when attending the Harvard Tercentenary.

Since I was seeking a new and revitalized experience of religion, and my parent was a bishop, 1 can imagine this crisis in in father figures might have appealed to Jung.

However, the occasion found me young and innocent of the world, especially of the psychic one, and he did the only thing he could for my benefit-he talked almost steadily for two days, filling my head with a rich flow of psychic nourishment that took me several years to incorporate and digest.

Many of my Boston acquaintances were far better equipped than I to benefit by such a colloquy, and it bore heavily on me; only in retrospect can I look upon those days and feel justification in knowing that not many could have been so touched in the wordless deeps as to find the rest of their lives given shape by them.

I could not assent at the time to what Jung was telling me, though I found it strangely fascinating; the psyche I had been studying in classes and books had quite a different cast, and I felt an obligation to cleave to the scientific view and not wander away into what seemed to me to be bucolic pastures of European scholarship and erudition.

My analytic reading began shortly after with Freud’s works, which I devoured with avid enthusiasm and in which I thought I was finding the answer to all things human; I set about applying it all mercilessly to family and friends.

It was so satisfying to have an explanation for hidden things!

Dutifully I moved ahead in my reading program over the years, toward Jung and Adler and the rest.

The Psychology of the Unconscious, which I had already glanced through like a college text as a measure to ‘brush up on Jung’ before seeing him, and had taken as a sort of code of symbols, I now greeted with different eyes, perhaps because by this time I had been in love and was no longer all closed up inside.

This new encounter with Jung was like emerging out of a tunnel into a broad and noble terrain, a real world, one of heights and depths, of living beings with an historical heritage and a future to strive toward.

The Secret of the Golden Flower lit up little flames in the interior recesses which have been glowing ever since.

The Jung of those earlier days in Providence came to life again and began to speak to my condition, and I began to sense that peculiar gratitude to him which most of us know so well.

During the war I received a second infusion of psychic nourishment which I could not fully digest, a rich inpouring of ways and views of the other side of the world, the Chinese Interior, and
more than ever felt the need to find the way to assimilate it; for I was tempted, as happens with large experiences, to find my life in it rather than the harder alternative of finding it in my life.

Of several foundations I requested to send me to Zurich to prepare for the field of psychology and religion, the Rockefeller wrote back with alacrity to say they had for some while been wanting
such a request and had been holding a special nest egg for the purpose.

At Zurich I had the good fortune to see the first beginnings of the germinating Institute, which was starting to embody the differentiation of one man’s vision into its many facets to be developed by many individuals with their special gifts; it was heroic work on the part of that Curatorium to meet the many tribulations and establish a workable order.

I have since realized what a piece of good fortune it is to be able to immerse oneself in that psychic world for a solid block of time, which in the usual course of training in other areas one cannot do.

The heart that pulsed through that organism, of course, was Jung himself; for me his helping hand slipped into the opus from point to point to steer it on its course.

In the many talks we had on religion, while I was still na:ive enough, all that I heard seemed natural and more or less understandable, lighting up those obscure levels bit by bit.

What really hit me amidships and shook my timbers was a thrust in the other direction. I was having that upside-down kind of growth that begins somewhere down in the psychic basement and reaches for the light of day.

I found that what I really wanted to hear, because it threw me into a new dimension of experience, was his comment on how and where religious content connects with everyday life.

Perhaps it was made particularly moving by the circumstance that he, in his late age v.: 1th its inward turning and its appetite for exploring the depths in their historical perspective, was reaching over that long span to my predicament of young years and was striking the keynote to which I could resonate.

When with his penetrating intuition Jung would point out these principles, he flung doors open to right and left for me, and with great intensity I retraced my way through the imagery of my dreams and discovered anew the vital connections between them and the emotional episodes which had been bearing me along as on a mountain torrent.

Here my quite active religious psyche was implanting itself in events and relationships, and, though it required struggling to reclaim it, at least it then came clothed in the warm colors of experience.

It was what I wanted of a religion, one that I had known at first hand in China, that sprang out of depths, but that entered into the life of everyday, into love, work, social issues, and concerns.

My efforts since then have been directed toward exploring the vital point of connection between the religious dynamisms and the outward life, where the archetype slips into the emotional setting, and thus where the supra-personal is one with the personal.

There has been no break in this as a religious quest, but I have felt it to be turned onto its course more than once by the hand of this man who was so well acquainted with the uncharted waters; yet it has come full circle around into psychiatry proper, where I can explore in mental disturbances that vital point of articulation (of joining) and learn how to restore to persons the personalness of their psychic life.

I need hardly enlarge on the point of this impression of Jung.

The vastness of his mind and vision, the dimensions illuminated by him, were for me gentle and serene in quality as :flooding sunlight; but what moved me like the grandeur of a storm was the genius of his hold on life and of his seeing into life, for perceiving the deepest operations of the psyche equally in the slumbering world of the night and the turbulence of the welter of the life of the day. ~John W. Perry, Contact with Jung, Pages 214-217