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We must get in touch with the man of the ages
c48b6 412bbennet

Meetings with Jung: Conversations Recorded During the Years 1946-1961

Küsnacht, 29th August 1956

Arrived in Zürich.

30th August 1956

At breakfast C.G. spoke of the difficulties implicit in the idea of anyone writing his biography; he said it would require a full understanding of his thought, and no one understood it completely.

Freud’s life, he said, could be clearly described because his thought was simply laid out.

But with him it was more complex, for unless the development of his thought were xentral to his biography it would be no more than a series of incidents, like writing the life of Kant without knowing his work.

To illustrate his meaning he mentioned a momentous dream he had had in 1913.

The experience had an important influence upon his life which resulted from the efforts he made to understand the dream; yet were it related quite simply few people would comprehend the significance it had at that point in his career.

The dream:

He was climbing a steep mountain path, twisting to the top, and on the right the valley was in shadow for it was still night; ahead the sun was behind the peak and rising, but still hidden.

In front of him was a primitive man (the man of all the ages – brown-skinned and hairy); he was following this man and each was armed for hunting, probably chamois.

Then the sun rose, and on the summit of the mountain Siegfried appeared in shining armour with a shield and spear; he was wearing something like skis and glided down over the rocks.

The skis were of bones – the bones of all the dead.

Then the primitive man indicated to him that they must shoot Siegfried with their rifles, and they lay in wait for him and killed him.

The primitive man (the shadow) was the leader; he went to collect the spoil.

But C.G. was filled with remorse and rushed down the mountain into a ravine and up the other side – he had to get away from the awful crime.

It was raining and everything was wet; but while this washed away all traces of the crime it made no difference to the sense of guilt which oppressed his conscience.

He awoke and wanted to sleep again but he knew he must try to understand the dream.

For a while his remorse for murdering Siegfried – the hero – obliterated everything else, overwhelming him to the extent that he felt impelled to take his revolver from the drawer and shoot himself, ‘commit suicide’; the dream and the impulse were terribly vivid and he might have done it but for the fact that his thoughts about the dream began to take shape:the hero, doing the very heroic act, was killed by the primitive man.

That is, the dream was pointing to the primitive man, who was immoral or undeveloped in our eyes, as the leader, the one to be followed.

For him, this meant that he must follow not the here and now of consciousness, the accepted achievements, but the man of the ages who represented the collective unconscious, the archetypes.

This dream was a big turning point in C.G.’s life – a far more significant dream than that of the mediaeval house, he said.

For it showed that he must follow a certain line and disregard popular ideas.

It was like the old Austrian saying of never doing today what can be done tomorrow; that is, time is not the important thing.

American boys carve on their desks ‘Do it now’, and this appeals to people today; but to do this, and to say ‘Where there’s a will there’s a way’ isn’t everything.

We must get in touch with the man of the ages, not be over impressed by the present, not be rushed.

In the dream the primitive man behaved naturally, as a primitive man would do – seeing someone approaching with sword and shield, he just fired and killed him.

So C.G. knew from the dream, when he came to comprehend it, that he must follow the deep hidden, discarded primitive man, and forsake his academic scientific career, the heroic role of doing things here and now and ‘getting on’ (‘This world’s empty glory’ E.A.B.).

He mentioned that Freud discovered the first archetype, the incest problem.

But he had regarded it only from the personal point of view, just as he took religion as simply a personal matter.

As such it could be disregarded.

He added that Freud never acquired any idea of the deeper unconscious although he spoke of ‘archaic memories’.

C.G. said that in the Oedipus complex lies a great deal of importance; it is the separation of the child and the parents, and the attitude of the child to the parents.

I asked if this wasn’t the problem in neurosis – the conflict of the personal and the collective; the desire just to be apart, and the difficulty in adapting to the whole, taking one’s place in the group.

It can show itself in many forms of phobias (claustrophobia etc.) where the underlying fear is of being alone and so faced with the central problem of adjustment.

But this varies in different ages; in the first half of life it is personal adjustment to life around us, and in the second half the adjustment is to the bigger spiritual life which goes on and on.

He mentioned Bollingen, that the great thing about it for him is that it is so near to Nature.

They cook on the open fire there, and he does most of the cooking and cuts the firewood – only wood is used.

Speaking of the fire, he said, ‘We haven’t yet mastered the natural forces so you have to know how to use it.’

We strolled round the garden (at Küsnacht) and he pointed out all the trees which had been killed by frost.

There had been warm weather in January, and the very severe frost in March burst a lot of the stems of the laurel, wisteria and other trees, because the sap had risen and it froze.

The bamboos also had to be cut down but they have shot up again and there is a very fine grove of delicate trees some ten or twelve feet high.

A feature of the house is that it was built originally with only one door.

C.G. said this was because ‘We Swiss live in the centre of Europe and lots of things may happen.’

In previous days, at the time of his army service, he had his rifle and thirty rounds of ammunition in the house (all Swiss soldiers have) so that he could defend himself.

The lower windows are protected by grilles of steel or bars.

The garden room was built later – it has a door to the garden and another into the house; the latter is an iron door and is always closed at night.

C.G. has a doze after lunch and so has Miss Bailey.

I sit in the garden, and today it is beautifully sunny.

Later we talked again, and C.G. said how interesting it would be if someone were to study the dreams people had under anaesthetics; he mentioned one or two examples.

Also he spoke of his great interest on reading that a neuro-surgeon, concerned with epilepsy, had stimulated the corpora quadrigemina and the patient had had a vision of a mandala, a square containing a circle.

This vision could be reproduced – and was reproduced – by the stimulation of the same area.

He said he had for a long time thought that the brain stem was important in our thinking life and how interested he was that the corpora quadrigemina, the four bodies, was the area, for it confirmed his idea of the importance of the square and the circle as symbols.

In the evening after dinner, we somehow got onto the subject of numbers which, C.G. said, had a life of their own.

It was always a problem for mathematicians – had numbers been invented or discovered?

This cropped up in talking about what religion was; was it with Origen, relegare: to connect, link back, or with Cicero, relegere: to gather up again, to recollect – that is, something that is there already?

The latter is C.G.’s idea for in thinking of religion we must think of all religions, for instance Buddhism, which is a religion without
a god.

But theologians say they are concerned only with Christianity!

This is like a doctor saying he is only concerned with viruses and is not interested, for example, in malaria.

So in religion we must avoid specialisation, concentrating on one thing only and leaving out the rest because it does not suit us.

Then we passed on to talk of numbers and their individual qualities.

One was nothing, because you could only think of one if you had a lot of ones; but also it could be Everything, like One (and the Many), that is the totality of God.

Two was the opposites – good and evil – and was left out by those who did not hold with opposites, such as those who accept the idea of the privatio boni.

Three was the dynamic number; it was male.

I said, ‘For example, one, two three – go!’ and he said, ‘Yes, that’s it, it’s leading somewhere.’

Four is female, complete; it is an end, final.

Five is four plus one, but the one is in the centre, it is the quintessence of the four.

Six is the double three (there was more to this).

Seven, the divine number, six plus one; the seven branched candlesticks (more also to this).

Eight – the double four.

Nine is the double four plus the central one, the quintessence again.

C.G. thinks of numbers as things existing in themselves which are discovered, not just invented.

31st August 1956

Talk with C.G. after breakfast about theologians – he found them ‘terribly superficial’.

They don’t mind talking, and a lot of their thought was ‘just firing blank ammunition’.

But when it comes to real firing – taking things seriously and seeing what they really are, they close up.

He mentioned the story of the trumpeter of Schaffhausen.

In the eighteen-forties there was fighting in Switzerland among the cantons; the Schaffhausen regiment went to take part and
the trumpeter went with them.

In a week he reappeared in Schaffhausen and everyone asked, ‘Why aren’t you at the war?’

‘Oh,’ he said, ‘they aim at you there!’ – so he had come home.

Theologians are often like that.

Then he went on to talk of the Pope’s dogma about the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and said it had great opposition in the Church because it is laid down that there can be no dogma unless it is founded upon Apostolic teaching, and there was no reference to the ascension of the Virgin until the sixth century.

But the Pope overrode that.

Several popes had attempted it before; one had done so a hundred years ago but he did not succeed in pushing it through.

The whole point of the dogma is to counteract the material; yet the woman is mater (that is, material) and God is manifest in creation, in matter.

There was tremendous opposition to the dogma, principally in northern countries; but the southern countries pressed for it.

The Virgin, therefore, is 99.9999 percent God – but not quite.

What will happen next?

Then I asked if it meant another Christ and he said, ‘Oh no, there can be only one Son of God.’

Laurens van der Post came for lunch and talked of his African adventures.

C.G. spoke also of participation mystique – that everything is known.

The primitive acts in that way; nothing is hidden nor can anything be hidden, it all comes out. C.G. is very keen on this idea, hence the title of his book Modern Man in Search of a Soul.

In the evening after dinner C.G. spoke of his first visit to Freud in Vienna.

While staying there he had a dream:

He was in the ghetto in Prague and it was narrow, twisted and low ceilinged, with staircases hanging down.

He thought, ‘How in hell can people live in such a place?’

That was the dream.

He went on to speak of how from the time of their first meetings he had noted the narrowness of Freud’s standpoint, his
limited perspective and concentration on tiny details.

He mentioned that to some degree it was because of Freud’s mother-complex that he was so concerned with sexual things – incest, sleeping with the mother and so on – as if they were something new. C.G., having been brought up in the country, knew all these things but they did not interest him.

The old ghetto in Prague, he said, was a famous one. ~E.A. Bennet, Conversations with Jung, Pages 149-163