Modern Psychology: C. G. Jung’s Lectures at the ETH Zürich, 1933-1941

Lecture XII 26th January, 1934

Today we will begin to study the case of a psychic personality which illustrates the Right side of the diagram which we were considering last time (Diagram III, p. 47).

The case of the Clairvoyante of Prevorst, on the contrary, belongs entirely to the Left side.

This is the case of Helene Smith, described by Theodore Flournoy.

His report of it appeared in Geneva in 1900, under the curious title: “Des Indes a la Planete Mar. Etude sur un cas de somnambulisme avec glossolalie.”

Helene Smith’ s father was a Hungarian, he was intelligent, well-educated and an excellent linguist.

As far as we know her mother was Swiss and it was from her that the daughter inherited the remarkable psychic faculties which led to the peculiar phenomena which we are about to study.

The mother was a convinced spiritualist; her belief was founded on personal experiences and she was gifted with second sight.

Helene’s brother spoke of having experienced strange phenomena and evidently could also have been a medium.

Besides this, we learn that Helene was brought up in a modest milieu, the family being rather poor and this fact had a considerable influence on her later attitude towards life.

Helene’s character was excellent and Flournoy emphasizes her intelligence and her natural dignity.

She was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church, but she was entered in the register of the Protestant Church a few months later, and was educated at a (Protestant) State school, where she was a very good pupil, if somewhat inattentive owing to her active inner life.

As she grew up, she was apprenticed to a large store where they thought very highly of her.

From childhood she was given to day dreams which, though they b ordered on visions, were not neurotic symptoms.

She was so interested in these phantasies that she liked to reproduce them in drawings and embroideries.

When Helene was fourteen, she had a very impressive vision of a light and unknown letters appeared at the same time.

Then she frequently had the vision of a man, wearing a wonderful embroidered garment, who stood beside her bed and frightened her.

She complained of being followed in the street by strange men, but whether they were objective or phantasy figures was never proved.

Her writing was liable to be suddenly disturb ed, letters being left out and replaced by strange signs.

She had an increasing feeling that spirits were near her and that she was protected by a guardian angel.

When she was ten, a big dog attacked her and a monk wearing a brown habit and a white cross on his breast, saved her by chasing the animal away.

Later, in any difficult situation, if a man for instance became too pressing, the monk would come to her rescue.

At twelve years old she used to start whenever the doorbell rang, for she was convinced that her phantasy would come true and expected daily that a distinguished man would drive up in a magnificent carriage, to carry her off to the far-away land to which she belonged.

She had a pronounced fear of the world and shunned people.

She was somehow never really happy, and her pride and ambition chafed against humble surroundings which left her strong personality unsatisfied.

When she reached the age of twenty, however, her condition rather improved and her fears slowly disappeared.

We might have expected that she would marry, but her guardian spirit, the monk, was always there to whisper that the right man had not yet turned up, thus keeping her away from the natural experiences of life.

She had, however, fundamentally a great deal of temperament, and the prospect of remaining an old maid was one of the causes of her unhappiness.

Her strong personality had to find an expression somehow. In 1892 Helene came into contact with spiritualistic séances for the first time; she was introduced to the group of Mme. N. in Geneva, but it was a very mixed gathering. Helene soon revealed herself as its leading medium.

At first the spirits conveyed their messages through automatic writing, but before long, in a state of trance, she had the following remarkable vision: a balloon app eared, which Was sometimes light and sometimes dark, bright ribbons flowed out of it, which changed into a radiant star.

In a further sitting the star developed into the grimacing face of a kind of devil, he had red hair which gave place to a bunch of roses, out of which a little snake wriggled.

These visions are very typical, the things that Helene sees correspond to inner possibilities: phantasies, spirits, light etc.

She had recently watched a balloon go up in reality and it might be argued that this event was simply reproduced in the vision, but the causality is of no importance here.

It was the vision on the contrary that seized upon the balloon as a good image for the thing which was seeking expression in consciousness.

Helene saw the light first and only remembered the actual balloon afterwards.

The sequence of these visions is an excellent il1ustration of enantiodromia: the light balloon becomes dark; the star, which is always the symbol for something particularly elevating, changes into a devil and a snake emerges from the roses; pleasant things turn into ugly ones and vice versa, things go over into their opposites.

At this period Helene also had visions when alone at home and other phenomena occurred.

For instance, once during business hours a certain pattern was lost; the man in charge, who was considerably troubled, told Helene about it and she answered automatically:”

It was sent to Mr. J. “At the same time she saw the number 18 and she added: “It was sent to him 18 days ago”-and this turned out to be the case, although she could have had no knowledge of the actual facts.

In the spiritualistic sittings with Group N. Helene gradually developed a high degree of somnambulism, in which the guide and shadow spirit came into action.

About this time she became acquainted with Flournoy who was deeply interested in these phenomena.

He observed, even at the first séance which he attended, that Helene was liable to one-sided anesthesia, for instance, she would lose all feeling in the right hand whilst the left would become hypersensitive; when her right h and was hurt she felt nothing, but after some time the pain would appear in the left hand; if asked to lift the right hand she would raise the left, insisting that it was the right.

Helene’s control, a masculine and very personal figure, now appeared in the séances; he would take possession of her right arm and wrap out messages while she was apparently conscious and still able to converse with the audience, but later he actually spoke through her mouth with a gruff, masculine voice.

When he wrote through her his handwriting was absolutely different from hers.

This control was completely autonomous, sometimes he would not appear for weeks although Helene invoked him; he obeyed neither the medium nor the audience

for he had more personality than the medium herself.

At first his character was somewhat undefined, but he soon showed definite characteristics: for instance he had poetic gifts and announced himself as Victor Hugo, although the sentimental stuff which he wrote shows that the real.

Victor Hugo had no connection with it!

For five months he held the stage, then a rival appeared, a certain Leopold, with a gruff voice and an Italian accent.

He behaved rudely to Victor Hugo, making fun of his verse.

The newcomer would have liked to blow up the whole group which he disdained, considering it inferior; but he wished above all to push his rival out of the way, for he was openly in love with Helene and showed it passionately, disturbing the séances with his jealous scenes.

His manner was arrogant and overbearing and he was determined to be sole master of his medium.

He wrote at first in her writing, but later in his own. Victor Hugo protested at first, but gradually he gave way and when Helene was persuaded to leave Group he disappeared altogether.

Flournoy, who observed these phenomena very closely, considers Leopold to be the result of auto-suggestion.

This marvelous word, which means nothing, had a particularly happy ring at that time, for in 1899 the idea of auto-suggestion was !he fashion and was welcomed as an explanation for everything.

Flournoy, in speaking of auto-suggestion, implies that the medium has taken it into her head to imagine such a figure.

In reality we imagine nothing, it imagines itself.

This reminds me of the story of a traveler who once persuaded an Indian to speak of his experiences; they were altogether too irrational for such a highly educated, sophisticated man and his comment was that the Indian had simply imagined it all!

The Indian replied: “Who do you suppose imagined it for me? ”

How often do we act from the assumption that we have voluntarily thought so and so or that it is our intention to have imaginations?

We do not ask ourselves: “Have I imagined it purposely or did it imagine itself? ”

It is too disconcerting to have to admit that something exists in us over which we have no control, and the fact that it can tell us things and act through us is altogether too uncanny; it is as bad as discovering somebody under our bed.

Auto-suggestion is therefore a very comforting idea – but if we ignore the true facts, the psyche is shorn of its helpful powers.

Flournoy would have done better to say: “Leopold suggested himself to Helene.”

Leopold did not suddenly spring into existence when he appeared as a control, he was always present in Helene Smith, he was part of her psychic structure.

His first appearance was in the form of the monk.

The light of consciousness has only to travel a little to the left, to the unconscious side, for such figures to become visible.

William James had a true understanding of these facts when he said: “Thought tends to personal form.”

When consciousness leaves its sphere on the right side, and moves over to the left, ideas become personified and autonomous.

This is what takes place when mediums are in a trance, everything is reversed, for the psychic picture comes up and the guide or control is in command.

Mediums then receive all manner of information that they could not possibly know, often of a sinister character.

Something like this is probably the origin of the Italian word “sinistra” (left), for these things are often very unfavorable. Page 54. ~Carl Jung, Modern Psychology, Vol. 1, Pages 51-54.