[Dr. Jung gives a WARTIME INTERVIEW]
Introduction: In the summer of 1942, Switzerland was encircled by the Axis powers—on the west, France unoccupied and occupied was under Nazi control.
For the Allies it was the darkest time of the war.
The Swiss, in their neutrality, carried on an existence as nearly normal as they could.
The Eranos Conference, at Ascona, went on with plans for its annual meeting in August, on the theme “The Hermetic Principle in Mythology, Gnosis, and Alchemy.”
Jung agreed to speak on an alchemical subject, “The Spirit Mercurius,”‘ and when the Tribune de Geneve sent a journalist to interview him on “the spiritual values of the Swiss” in June, he was deep in research.
The interviewer, Pierre Courthion, was a French-Swiss art historian and educator, who had served the League of Nations as chief of the arts section of the International Institute for Intellectual Cooperation
and had written and lectured widely on modern art.
His article, published on June 19, 1942, is somewhat abridged in this version.
Pierre Courthion: C. G. Jung lives in Kiisnacht, at the back of a garden, in a comfortable house full of Biedermeyer furniture and family pictures.
His secretary took me to a book-lined room, its tables piled with manuscripts, and I saw a very tall man coming toward me.
He was dressed in dark clothes and wore a little black silk skull cap.
Pushing aside with an enormous hand the lectern on which a volume of Berthelot’s Greek texts’ lay open, he offered me a seat and sat down himself in an armchair by the window.
While he was inquiring if I had had much trouble finding the place (which is secluded, at number 228 on the interminable Seestrasse, past the village and the Sonne hotel) I watched him against the light from windows through which the branches of the still-leafless trees could be seen trembling in the mist.
Jung lighted his copper-stemmed pipe and told me about his life; his travels as an “itinerant psychologist” to India, then Africa,’ to study the psychology of primitive people.
From Kenya and Uganda he went to the Sudan and Khartoum, then down the Nile to investigate the influence of the African mentality on Egypt.
“In Egypt,” he said, “the external appearance is Asiatic, but there is a religious influence that is entirely African.”
And, Jung told me humorously, when he got back to Switzerland he realized that he had gone a long way looking for what he could have found close to home, in the Lotschenta, for example. “These
studies,” he said, “are not easy.
You have to get people’s confidence before they will tell you about themselves.
But what surprises!
Things you read about in Paracelsus still exist. I’ve met sorcerers, spell-casters.
Did you know that there are still some places in Bern or St. Gall where they make pacts with the devil and sign them with blood?
That they practice magic on cows?
In the Swiss soul, as all human souls, there are regions we do not know about. . . .””What will individuals of different types tend to do?
That’s very important to know. The rest is just mechanics.
The creative instinct, the will of the creator, that is what matters.
In other words: With the devil’s grandmother for a mother and the devil for a father, how does one get to be the good Lord’s child?”
Jung has a laugh whose sonority is somehow intentionally reassuring.
When I asked him about the signs and symbols being studied again today, he said: “The symbol has a very complex meaning because it defies reason; it always presupposes a lot of meanings that can’t be comprehended in a single logical concept.
The symbol has a future.
The past does not suffice to interpret it, because germs of the future are included in every actual situation.
That’s why, in elucidating a case, the symbolism is spontaneously applicable, for it contains the future; within its zone of mystery, it comprises the individual’s defense.
For example, a developing disease always has a counter-aspect: together with fever as a germ infection, there is simultaneously fever as a bodily reaction and defense.
Why, the dream is even a defense.
In explaining dreams from a causal point of view, Freud got to their primary causes.
But what interests me is why a person dreams of one thing rather than another.
If you look at a dream conscientiously you can see that some of the details in it have been changed from impressions that you had before.
Thus the dream invents an accident when it needs one, when it wants an accident.
In the end, we have to ask what the aim of the dream is from a teleological point of view.
Why does this person’s unconscious wish to show him an image like that?
And here is where I learned a great deal from primitive people: the dream is a product of the imagination, a gallery of images, images of protection from some blow that is threatening; the function of the
dream is to compensate the conscious attitude.
I believe that what dreams show us in vivid and impressive images are our vulnerable points.
That is why the medieval doctors asked about dreams.
So we must observe the same rule.
A Dutchman said, ‘Magic is the science of the jungle,’ and the Chinese claim that when we wake up troubled it is because the soul—kuei, the body-soul, which is less spiritual than the spirit and causes apparitions (ghosts) after death—is hovering above us.
The imagery of alchemy is found all over the world.”
Jung’s firm strength surprised me, and the modest way he had of expressing his experience of the human soul in a few words (on a scale that ranges from the greatest common sense to extreme intuition).
He spoke slowly, distinctly; then, as if perceiving my confusion in traversing this obscure psychological domain where he himself moves so easily, he stopped for a moment and got up to switch on an
overhead lamp. Its reflections made the shadows of his face look purple.
Our interview continued between two lights: the fading light of day (thick fog right up to the windows now) and the still tentative light from the lamp, filtered through its yellow shade.
In the confined space of the room, fantastic, flickering apparitions came to life.
Still illustrating the premonitions he had mentioned before, Jung said to me, “Take the tendency to commit suicide—right from the beginning.
You don’t pay attention on the street.
One day you fall down stairs.
Then there is a little automobile accident.
It doesn’t look like anything.
Yet these are the preliminaries.
Primitive people never mention chance.
That is why I say, `Be careful when you are not at one with yourself, in your moments of dissociation.’ ”
Jung sat up in his big green armchair and put down his pipe, by that gesture emphasizing what he was about to say.
Weighing each word, he stated, “One must never give way to fear, but one must admit to oneself that one is afraid.”
Yet knowing about a repression does not always cure it; sometimes one has to confess to it openly.
Then the doctor told me an ultra-simple tale about a hotel maid who came to him seeking treatment for the agonies of insomnia.
He explained to her about sailing a boat, how one lets oneself go with the wind.
“When you want to sleep,” he told her, “go with the wind.”
And in the rhythmic reassurance of being rocked the young woman found sleep again.’
“You see,” he said, “nothing is more thrilling than trying to understand.
One comes to see that life is great and beautiful, that nonsense and stupidity do not always triumph.”
Carl Gustav Jung stood up, and it seemed to me that I was now facing another man, pale, with an arched nose, almost pointed at the tip.
He took off his cap (his forehead is higher than I expected) and led the way to another room, equally encumbered with old books and work tables, there he showed me some remarkable paintings on cloth
made by Tibetan monks.
The door onto the stairs was partially open and the big house was full of voices and laughter.
A burst of sound escaping from a piano somewhere brought us a phrase of Schumann.
My host accompanied me to the garden gate.
In the night fog we spoke sadly of the replica of servitude to which many individuals are reduced.
But as I grasped Jung’s powerful hand in mine, I felt passing into me the vibrant, tenacious, communicative warmth of an immense hope. ~Carl Jung, C.G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, Pages 141-145
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