J. Marvin Spiegelman: Memory of C.G. Jung
My memories of Jung come from the period March, 1956, to March, 1959, during which I was a student at the Institute in Zurich.
He was to be seen at least once or twice a year then, at a public or Institute lecture or at a seminar for the advanced students.
At these events, times of great anticipation and excitement for us, Jung was much as he appears in the filmed interviews: alive, vital, intense, serious and attentive to all issues which were raised, yet full of good humor and laughter.
There were two moments during which he departed from those warming and awe-inspiring presentations, at one of which I was an unfortunate participator.
The first moment was during a seminar for advanced students.
One of our group had given Jung a number of paintings done by a patient in analysis and Jung was commenting on them.
At one point, he came upon a painting of a missionary clergyman helping some African blacks.
Jung got very angry and denounced those Europeans who went down to save perfectly happy and contented Africans who didn’t need them.
“We need these saints in Europe,” said Jung, “to help us save ourselves!”
The thinly veiled reference was probably to Schweitzer, but Jung’s anger went way beyond some personal or individual criticism and was enormously heartfelt.
The second moment was at a lecture at the Institute.
Jung opened up to questions of a general sort after his talk and I foolishly raised a question about the nature of the symbol.
I had been having many conversations over the past months with a fellow-student who had very strong Freudian leanings and was trying to reconcile these with his Jungian views and interests.
In those conversations, he often quarreled with Jung’s view of the symbol.
I told him to ask Jung himself, but when the time came at the public lecture, my friend wisely kept his mouth shut.
So I asked the question.
Jung got just furious.
He said, “You can find the answer to that in any book!” and went on to excoriate me for raising the question at all.
Well, I was naturally mortified.
I reddened deeply and sank into my chair as much as I could, which was not nearly enough.
But I weathered the storm, inside and out, and took my bruised ego home to reflect.
It turned out to be a good lesson for me.
Since then, I have appreciated the importance of speaking for myself and not being a mouthpiece for views or reflections that were not my own.
But my more personal encounter with Jung came at the end of my stay, in March, 1959, when I went to him as part of my ritual of completing my work at the Institute.
In my heart, I wanted to receive his blessing, just as I had received the blessing of my grandfather (who, in his middle nineties, was like an Old Testament prophet to me) when I went off to sea as a sailor in World War II.
I was a bit gun-shy from my previous encounter with Jung and couldn’t bring myself to ask for the blessing directly.
I approached the interview, there at his home in Kusnacht, as a most special event indeed and my heart was thumping as I was ushered into the waiting room by the housekeeper.
I was soon calmed, however, by seeing the bookcase filled with paperback American detective stories (my wife would like that, I thought) and a painting of a silly-looking grand potentate surrounded by foolishly adoring people.
Jung was clearly trying to de-inflate people’s images of him and I smiled and relaxed.
He came in shortly and brought me into his famous office, motioning me to sit down in a straw chair just inches from his own.
He lit his pipe and looked at me expectantly.
He seemed totally present.
I was overwhelmed with this closeness, this total availability both physically and psychologically, and babbled something to the effect that my problems were pretty well taken care of by my analyst, but I wanted to see Jung before I left Zurich.
He laughed easily and asked me how I liked the work.
I responded that I was deeply moved and affected by it, and that his books had always been a source of great value for me, although some had been hard to read.
He nodded and then laughed again, saying that they “had been hard to write.”
We were both silent for a while, as if he were trying to sense really where my soul was, since I wasn’t able to convey it to him.
Then he began to speak, from out of himself somewhere.
He spoke of his own life, of his trips to Africa and India, of his own search for himself, of the claims of the individuation process, of the loneliness of it, and how he had been glad of someone’s participation in it.
He spoke of dreams he had, of one in particular that he had dreamt at Bollingen, where soldiers of the Middle Ages appeared.
He delightedly said that Miss von Franz had independently had the same dream when she slept on that spot.
Subsequently, he said, bones of just such soldiers were dug up there.
At another point, as he told a dream that he had in Africa, I made a slight face, hardly anything, but I didn’t really agree with his interpretation.
He stopped at once, looked deeply at me and said, “I don’t understand it at all!
What does it mean?” Jung was asking me to interpret his dream?
Still later, he spoke of a patient of his from America and showed me some pictures she had painted (she had since died) which were very beautiful.
The mandala lights were incredible, but those paintings done afterwards in America were much bleaker.
He said, “Her light went out in America,” and I sighed for that was exactly what I had feared might happen to me when I returned home.
Then he laughed and said, “But it came on again!”
Throughout all this apparent soliloquy, I was totally present too and I had the experience, subsequently reported by others also, that Jung was “speaking to my condition,” and addressing himself to all my problems, fears, concerns, and deep desires.
Most of all, it was an experience of Self speaking to Self.
At the end-I don’t know whether it was an hour or two-I left with great thanks and a handshake that expressed all that I could not.
Without asking for it, I had received Jung’s blessing.
In the years since then, Jung has appeared now and then in dreams or fantasies.
He was very much present once-together with my grandfather, of all things-when I even had to make a separation with the Jungian collective.
We did a “hora” together.
In all these dreams and fantasy encounters, Jung has always been supportive of my individuation, just as he was through my silence that special day in March, 1959. ~ J. Marvin Spiegelman, J.E.T., Pages 84-88
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