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C.G. Jung Speaking : Interviews and Encounters

“DOCTOR JUNG, I PRESUME” [1925] Despite the increased facilities for travel nowadays, I fancy it must still be unusual for a junior Government officer in an up-country station to find himself entertaining a great European thinker of the calibre of Carl Gustav Jung of Zurich.

Nevertheless, I had this memorable experience along time ago, and it occurred because Jung, oddly enough, was wandering about in a safari car, more or less lost.

It happened in 1925 when I was the Assistant District Commissioner at Kapsabet, the Government station for Nandi District in Kenya, an out-of-the-way place in those days.

One afternoon I was returning to my bungalow, which lay just off the main road behind a screen of trees, when I saw a large safari box-body car pulled into the side.Now this main road was magnificently broad, bordered and shaded by enormous blue gums, and looking as if it led to some important place.

But, alas, just beyond my house it changed abruptly into a neglected earth track. This was, in fact, part of the old Sclater Road to Uganda for foot caravans in the 1890’s.

It had become literally side-tracked when the railway reached Kisumu by a more southern route in 1901 and an easier connection with Uganda was made across Lake Victoria.

All this explains why the safari car had stopped: the three Europeans in it had seen where the broad road ended at the township boundary. They had got out of the car and were looking at me speculatively as I approached. I said, “Good afternoon. Can I help you in any way? I’m the A.D.C. here.”

The tallest of the three, a reddish-faced man, replied.

“We’re trying to get to Mount Elgon and would like to know the best road to take.” I told them there was no direct road to Elgon from Kapsabet and they could not possibly get there in daylight. I went on to explain that Elgon, where I had recently spent several weeks on a boundary job, was a sprawling land mass with extensive foothills, and it would be about seventy miles on earth roads, either by Kakamega or Eldoret, to get to them. Then it would be over twenty miles to the summit. “We aren’t interested in the summit,” said the spokesman. “We just want to get to the foothills.” From where we were standing we could see the blue-gray shape of Elgon away to the north west receding into the usual mist. As we all gazed at it, thinking, I suppose, how close it might be as the vulture flew, I again stressed that they could not get there in daylight and suggested they had some tea with me, pushed on to the hotel at Eldoret, thirty miles distant, and made a fair start in the morning. The tall man then said, “I am Dr. X.” (the name escaped me and I have never discovered who he was).’ “This is Dr. Jung and this is Mr. Douglas, our secretary, an American.”‘

Douglas was a young man, about twenty-five, athletic looking and darkly handsome.

He appeared bored by the proceedings and I do not recollect that he ever uttered a single word—perhaps the perfect secretary. On the other hand I noticed that they had no African servants with them and it occurred to me later that perhaps this explained young Douglas’s gloom.’

I led the way to my bungalow, and over tea Dr. X again took up the batting. “It may seem odd to you,” he said, “but we are in fact psychologists intending to do some field work.” I started mentally.

“Did you say Dr. Jung?” The burly man smiled and said, “Yes, I am Dr. Jung.” “Of Zurich ?” “Yes, of Zurich.” He looked surprised and pleased. “I cannot help wondering,” I said, “what kind of field work you will find to do on Elgon?”

Dr. X. explained. “Dr. Jung,” he said, “is interested in dreams and their interpretation, and as a change from studying them among the highly civilized people of Europe, he wants to get further back and see if he can learn anything from a fairly primitive people. After considering the possibilities everywhere we decided that the tribes on Mount Elgon would suit us best for this purpose.

And so,” he concluded, “we are devoting our summer vacation to this work.” They were thinking, it seemed, of contacting the Kara mojong or the Sabei and I told them that these tribes were in Uganda—so far as I knew, in a Closed District, which meant that they would have to get a permit to enter it from the Provincial Commissioner at Mbale.

They seemed rather disconcerted, and I hurried on to another obvious weakness in this psychological expedition. “How,” I asked, “do you propose to communicate with these people?” “We have thought of that,” said Dr. X, “and Dr. Jung has learned Swahili for the purpose.”

“Yes,” said Dr. Jung. “I have spent six weeks learning Swahili.” Somewhat diffidently I pointed out that the Karamojongand the Sabei had their own languages and did not speak Swahili. Dr. Jung said he understood Swahili was the lingua franca and everyone spoke it.

I explained that though Swahili was indeed the lingua franca of East Africa, this only meant that people could be found everywhere who spoke and understood it, but that in fact the majority of the Africans, including the vast majority of the women, did not speak Swahili. Further, the more primitive the tribe the fewer Swahili speakers would there be.

I said they would have to use interpreters and probably the Administration would be able to help them in this way. I carefully avoided suggesting that it might be necessary for them to have interpreters who could speak English, as this would have been to cast doubts on Dr. Jung’s command of Swahili, and for all I knew a man of his intellectual capacity might have been able to learn more Swahili in six weeks than I could in six years. Like a prophet of doom I went on to say that even with good interpretation, they would run into considerable difficulty, because the more primitive the tribe the more purely materialistic was their language.

Swahili was a poor medium for expressing any abstract ideas or emotions, and I was pretty sure that the Karamojong and Sabei languages would be even worse. At this point Dr. X. observed that thismethods of getting results.

That, of course, immediately shut me up, and Dr. Jung took up the running, asking me about camping conditions on Elgon. Eventually he came to the subject of the Elgon caves. “Have you been inside them ?” he asked. “I have been inside one,” I replied. “What did you find inside ?” “Fleas,” I answered. Dr. Jung gave a great bellow of laughter, and Dr. X. joined in a little more moderately, but young Douglas only gave me a sort of sour smile as if I had taken an undue liberty with the great man. I went on to explain that the people who lived on Elgon had always used the caves as cattle shelters, so far as I knew, and the floors were covered with dung and sheep and goat droppings to a great depth.

In these rich layers flourished countless millions of fleas. Visiting one with gum boots on and an electric torch had been enough for me. “Of course,” I said, “I know what you have in mind—paintings or such-like by primitive or even prehistoric man. In fact, that’s what I was looking for in the cave I visited, but I did not see anything.

However, there are many caves. I have never heard of any relics of that kind in any of them, but I don’t know if all the caves have ever been visited, more especially by trained observers. You might be lucky and find something that has hitherto been missed. The fleas are rather a deterrent.”

Shortly afterwards they thanked me warmly and I put them on the road to Eldoret. It was a queer thing that I never heard any more about this psychological expedition, though I was on the look-out for news. Unless they had resources and prepared lines of work about which they did not tell me, I cannot help thinking that their safari could hardly have produced any useful results because either Dr. Jung and his friends stopped longer than I gathered was their intention, or they came back the following year, in which case I can only suppose that they would have been rather better prepared than on their initial effort.

And what was the result of Dr. Jung’s “Researches about primitive psychology in North Kenya”? Truth compels me to state that I don’t know. It is not my line of country. C.G. Jung Speaking; Pages 32-37.