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C.G. Jung Letters, Vol. 1: 1906-1950

To Fritz Blanke

Dear Colleague, 2 May 1945

The “Bear-skinned” comes into the category of unorthodox beings, more specifically that of werewolves, “doctor animals,” leopard men, and “Beriserkr.”

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The man charged with mana, or numinous man, has theriomorphic attributes, since he surpasses the ordinary man not only upwards but downwards.

Heroes have snake’s eyes (Nordic: ormr i auga ), are half man half serpent (Kekrops, Erechtheus) , have snake-souls and snake’s skin; the medicine-man can change into all sorts of animals.

Among the American Indians, certain animals appear to the primitive medical candidate; there is an echo of this in the dove of the Holy Ghost at the unearthly baptismal birth (when the Christ came to Jesus).

Another echo is the “Brother Wolf” of St. Francis.

Characteristic of the Germanic mentality of Brother Klaus is the figure of the pilgrim reminiscent of Wotan, for whom “die Wtitenden” [the raging ones] , the Bear-skinned, are an excellent match.

Evidently the figure of Christ appears here in two forms:

  1. as a pilgrim who, like the mystic, has gone on the peregrinatio animae;

  2. as a bear whose pelt contains the golden lustre.

In alchemy the bear is one of the theriomorphic symbols of transformation, like the dragon, lion, and eagle. (See Psychology and Alchemy, fig. 90.)

These are all stages of spiritual transformation, like the Kopa etc. of Mithraism.

In alchemical mysticism there finally arises out of the lion (or bear) the aurum philosophicum in the form of a novus sol, i.e., the golden lustre.

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(Folklore and alchemy interpenetrated at a very early date!)

The meaning of the vision may be as follows: on his spiritual pilgrimage and in his instinctual ( bear-like, i .e., hermit-like ) subhumanness Brother Klaus recognizes himself as Christ.

This runs parallel with his manifest adoption by God the Father and God the Mother.

The brutal coldness of feeling that the saint needed in order to abandon his wife and children and friends is encountered in the subhuman animal realm.

Hence the saint throws an animal shadow. (Analogies: Antichrist, the Temptation. Quid mihi et tibi es, mulier? )

Whoever can suffer within himself the highest united with the lowest is healed, holy, whole.

The vision is trying to show him that the spiritual pilgrim and the Beriserker are both Christ, and this opens the way to forgiveness of the great sin which holiness is. (Sine peccato nulla gratia!)

He is frightened to death by God’s wrath (Trinity vision ) because this wrath is aimed at him, who has betrayed his nearest and dearest and the ordinary man for God’s sake.

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung; Letters Vol. 1; Pages 363-365.

Note: B. inquired about Nicholas von der Flue’s vision of the “man with the bearskin.”

In this vision the Blessed Brother Klaus saw a divine pilgrim whom he seemed to have identified with Christ, and whose clothes changed into a bear•skin, glistening with gold
(cf. von Franz, Die Visionen des Niklaus von der Flue, 1959, p. 8 1) .

In “Brother Klaus” Jung discusses the Trinity vision (cf. n. 12 infra) but mentions the Bear-skin vision only in passing ( par. 487).

In a letter to Mary Mellon of 24 Sept. 45 (not published in this selection) Jung reports an incident which throws light on the role of Nicholas von der Flue in Swiss psychology.

He writes:

“We lived (during the war] in ghostlike suspension and in an unbelievable sort of unreality, never too sure of our existence. Several times it hung on a hair that we were invaded. We hardly dared to believe in a miracle. But it came off. My son is an officer in a Catholic infantry regiment. He told me that his soldiers had the collective vision of the blessed brother Niklaus von der Fliie, extending his hands towards the Rhine to ward off the German troops approaching our frontiers. The blessed Brother is actually going to be canonized in Rome. It is nice to have such protective saints . . . .”

Note: In this vision Brother Klaus “saw the head of a human figure with a terrifying face, full of wrath and threats,” whereupon “overcome with terror he instantly turned his face away and fell to the ground.” “Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious,” CW 9, i, pars. 1 2 ff.; “Brother Klaus,” par. 478.)

On account of its terrifying and therefore heretical character this vision was later adjusted to dogmatic concepts and brought into connection with the Trinity picture in the parish church at Sachseln (where Brother Klaus had been baptized ) and called the “Trinity vision.”

~Carl Jung; Letters Vol. 1; Pages 363-365.