A visit to Jung by Alwine von Keller
The pages which follow constitute the transcription which Alwine von Keller made of her meeting with Jung in the winter of 1944, while the latter was recovering from his grave illness.
- A visit to Jung by Alwine von Keller
‘First of all, on what he is writing: he is working at this moment on the sea (he shows me manuscripts and method of work, to which he dedicates himself passionately).
Sea = the world (‘world’ in a Christian sense).
In the sea = salt and also sulphur: the bitter and the devil.
The alchemic process = initially bitterness, muddiness, and boredom.
In bitterness, the sentiments are differentiated.
Without it [it does occur] no differentiation (‘one does not see the plank in one’s own eye’).
From bitterness, and from the sentiments which are differentiated, springs forth wisdom.
Wisdom impossible, without [that] previous differentiation.
If, though, one remains in the salt of bitterness, then one becomes hardened, encrusted.
Then he began to speak of his experience during his illness.
Only now had he understood what alchemy truly meant in many of its stages which had until now remained incomprehensible.
He had read, for example:
‘He who experiences the Conjunctio and tells its secret, becomes mad or is pierced by poisoned arrows’.
Now, the emboli did actually go through him, like arrows through the lung, the heart and the leg and he believed that it was [really] his end.
And then the delirium of the fever. No, he was not spared a thing.
But he [also] had, over three weeks, nights of the most inexpressible happiness.
At first, he did not believe that such great happiness existed and that such fullness could submerge anyone.
By day, he felt weariness, pain, suffering, but he cared little because the night would come.
Then [come the night] he immersed himself in a deep sleep and entered the infinite.
There, no bed stood any more, no body.
And every time that he suffered during the day, he said to himself: ‘What harm can all this do me: for now the night is upon us!’.
At 12, then, he would wake, bathed in happiness.
Of an existence full of meaning.
On one of those nights he travelled across southern India, Ceylon or the Malabar Coast.
Through an arch he entered a cavern in the rock.
Inside there were thousands of little flames, lamps probably burning oil, as in the Indian
At the centre of the cavern there was a large, round stone.
On the table, in position of meditation, there sat an extremely old Indian.
His face was jet black, his coat white.
Then [Theodor] Hammerli[-Schindler] arrived, he was wearing around his forehead a gold band and, on his chest, a medallion with his own image, a half-length portrait; it was the prince of the island of Kos, sanctuary of Asclepios.
Jung himself was taller than in reality, two-three metres tall, but knew that was just fine and also that the Indian and Hammerli were having a medical consultation (the Indian was, as far as I remember, the prince of doctors).
He had fully realized he was in the fullness of the sense and said:
‘Now it’s going well. Now it is as it ought to be. This is the real’.
When he saw my picture of the triumphing flame, he said that blue and gold were his heraldic colours.
And, in reference to blue, he said that he had seen the Earth from space, it had been fifty-thousand kilometres away, that he had seen it as it must appear seen from the Moon: absolutely marvellous—a saturated blue, unheard of, with a magnificent azure enveloping it, intense, large.
And the sky around it (which enveloped it) was, in its turn, of a deep blue.
And, in it, floated the square stone of solid, brownish granite.
He himself was a point in the infinite. He had dissolved.
He circulated [kreiste] in the All.
Then he was a fish. With gills, and barbels.
One day, he happened to brush his ear with his hand. He was amazed.
He said, astonished: ‘Ah, what is this?’
So, they had given him—the fish, which was him—a human ear! Yes, but this was his (Jung’s) human ear! Where did it come from?
One day he touched his head. Yes, it was indeed a human skull?!
One day the trunk. Yes, how come a trunk?
He could only understand his existence as a fish, not as a human.
Then, as if he were a point, he moved about in a circular space around a centre; he aspired to, longed to go out into the open space, but, none the less, he circled, orbited closer and closer to the centre.
This began to whirl, and he entered the vortex.
The vortex described an anti-clockwise movement, in which he was now trapped.
Then, from this vortex of stones, sand, gravel, there rose, forming slowly, taking shape, an island on which he stood.
The island rose higher and higher, towering more and more, it grew.
At this point, a delegation of Americans arrived, optimists, with plans for reform and organization. He thought: how stupid! Damn fools! They brought machinery.
They wanted to organize, reform a fifth of the Earth.
He continued to think: ‘Stupid people! Stupid people!’
They told him that he had signed a contract of co-operation with them.
They were a cooperative company.
He absolutely denied having signed any contract whatsoever, he had never dreamed of doing anything of the kind.
Then they formed a circle, they placed their arms on their neighbours’ shoulders, as if they wanted to sing: ‘You’re a jolly good fellow’.
By then he felt that he could not stay there loafing around so stupidly; he slipped in amongst them, and this constituted joining the circle and signing the contract.
And with this began his convalescence.
One evening, he realized: I have been returned to the Earth.
He pushed through a heavy blanket of dense steam, of heaviness; it was as if he were entering something in which there were very rough surfaces and rugged edges, which squeezed him terribly, they pressed on him, they hurt him; he defended himself in vain, now he was inside.
Before it was: ‘Wo fass ich dich, unendliche Naturihr Bruste, wo . . . ’
One evening he realized: now there was no longer the night-time party, but, rather, fitful sleep, pain, sickness.
He said that this corresponded to the [stage of] coagulation in alchemistic works; that he had been dismembered, and now the body parts were pressed together.
Afterwards he could not find Dr. Hammerli’s face again.
An Arab proverb says: ‘The face slips away from the dying’.
He always thought: ‘But doesn’t he know who he is? Does he believe he is really the image he wears on his chest?
Does he not see himself?’ (He had seen H.[Hammerli] as the prince of Kos in the sanctuary of Asclepios as an avatar.
I understood that he [i.e. Hammerli] [there] wore the image of Hammerli, now incarnate, but perhaps Jung meant just the opposite. I must ask him, sooner or later).
The three nurses who attended to him in Hirslanden were for him initiatrixes.
The first nurse of the day, in his imagination, was an ancient incarnation of Venus (in reality, she absolutely was not), but one who communicated the initiation only to primitive patients.
With the second, he always had the feeling of, or rather perceived the smell of blood and martyrdom.
She, as a martyr, could confer initiation in the Christianity of the third century.
His actual nurse, the initiatrix, was the nurse [on duty] in the night: an old Jewish woman of about sixty-five.
Every night she administered to him the ritual food: she was a character linked with the pomegranate of the Qabbalah, with the Rosarium of alchemy, with the heavenly garden of the Renaissance.
In reality, she was a Berliner of about forty years of age17.
She must, though, have grasped something, although he believes he has not spoken at night of what was taking place inside him.
And it was indeed a remarkable coincidence that she should become his night nurse, since just before receiving this position she wanted to commit suicide.
Now, though, she has received a bit of analysis! Night after night, while he was eating something, she would tell him the story of her whole life and of her pain.
And, in the end, there was no more question of suicide.
At some particular moment he said, again as if in passing, he had always spoken of ‘psychology’—that is, that this [of what he had spoken to that nurse] too, was psychology.
He said that, if he strayed even if only by a hair’s breadth, then for him it was disaster.
What was allowed of others, was with him a mortal sin.
(I perceived that, in his grandiose account of his second birth, he was bearing witness to the reality of the invisible world. So to speak bent under a load of these proportions, I took my leave).
He said that during his convalescence he had been depressed, because he had feared that he was afflicted with an inflated sense of things, and his experience, then, appeared to him as hybris—On this subject, he irradiated power and evidence [Evidenz]—and the greatest modesty and objectivity.
He referred to his case as if he were giving a [clinical] report’. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 2011, 56, 232–254