Childhood and Student Years {1875-1900):

Carl Gustav Jung was born July 26, 1875, in Kesswil, Switzerland, on Lake Constance. His paternal grandfather, alter whom he was named, had moved from Germany in 1822, when Alexander von Humboldt obtained an appointment for him as professor of surgery at the University of Basel. His father, Johann Paul Achilles Jung (1842-1896), was a clergyman, and his mother, Emilie Preiswerk Jung (1848-1923), was the daughter of a long-established Basel family. When the boy was four, his parents moved to klein-Hüningen, near Basel, and it was there his education began. His father taught him Latin, and his mother, as he tells in a volume of old-age reminiscences, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, read to him of exotic religions from an illustrated children’s book, to which he constantly returned to view with fascination its pictures of Hindu gods.

During early youth, Jung thought of archaeology as a career. Theology, too, interested him, though not in his father’s sense; for the concept of Christ’s life as the sole decisive feature in the drama of God and man he regarded as belying Christ’s own teaching that the Holy Ghost would take his place among men after his death. He regarded Jesus as a man; hence, either fallible or a mere mouthpiece of the Holy Ghost, who, in turn, was “a manifestation of the inconceivable God.”

One day, in the library of a college classmate’s father, the questing youth chanced on a small book on spiritualistic phenomena that immediately caught and absorbed him; for the phenomena described were like those of stories he had been hearing in the Swiss countryside since childhood.

Furthermore, he knew that similar tales were reported from all parts of the world. They could not be the products of religious superstition, since religious teachings differ and these accounts were alike. They must be connected, he thought, with the objective behavior of the psyche. Interest ignited, he read ravenously; but among his friends he encountered only resistance to the subject, a curious, hard resistance that amazed him. “I had the feeling,” he declares, “that I had pushed to the brink of the world; what was of burning interest to me was null and void for others, and even a cause of dread.

Dread of what? I could find no explanation for this.

After all, there was nothing preposterous and world-shaking in the idea that there might be events which overstepped the limited categories of space, time, and causality. Animals were known to sense beforehand storms and earthquakes.

There were dreams which foresaw the death of certain persons, clocks which stopped at the moment of death, glasses which shattered at the critical moment. All these things had been taken for granted in the world of my childhood. And now I was apparently the only person who had ever heard of them. In all earnestness I asked myself what kind of world I had stumbled into. Plainly the urban world knew nothing about the country world, the real world of mountains, woods, and rivers, of animals and ‘God’s thoughts’ (plants and crystals). I found this explanation comforting. At all events, it bolstered my self-esteem.”

What decided this young scholar of philosophical bent to enter medicine has not, as far as I know, been told. It was possibly the imposing model of his very distinguished grandfather of Humboldt’s time. But he has himself described the strange events that turned him, in the last months of his medical schooling, from medicine and surgery and psychiatry.

While following his required courses, he had been avidly reading, on Sundays, in Kant and Goethe, Hartmann, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche; but again had found, when be thought to talk of such authors to his friends, that no one wanted to hear of them. All his friends wanted were facts, and all he had for them was talk—until, one day, there came to him something as solid and cold as steel.

lie was in his room, studying, with the door half open to the dining room, where his widowed mother was knitting by the window, when a loud report sounded, like a pistol shot, and the circular walnut table beside her had split from the rim to beyond the center—a table of solid walnut, dried and seasoned for some seventy years. Two weeks later, the young medical student, returning home at evening, found his mother, his fourteen-year-old sister, and the maid in high agitation. About an hour earlier, another deafening crack had come from the neighborhood of a heavy nineteenth-century sideboard, which the women had then examined without finding any sign. Nearby, in the cupboard containing the breadbasket, however, Jung discovered the breadknife with its steel blade broken to es: in one corner of the basket, its handle; in each of the others, a fraction of the blade. To the end of his lite Jung preserved the fragments of that concrete fact.

A lew weeks later he learned of certain relatives engaged in table-turning, who had a medium, a young girl of fifteen and a half, who produced somnambulistic states and Spiritualistic phenomena. Invited to participate, Jung immediately conjectured that the manifestations in his mother « house might be connected with that medium. He joined the sessions and, for the next two years, meticulously took notes, until, in the end, the medium, feeling her s failing, began to cheat, and Jung departed.

Meanwhile, he was still at medical school, and in due on the time arrived for the state examination. His professor in psychology had been “not exactly,” in his judgment, “stimulating.” Moreover, in the medical world of that time, psychiatry was held in contempt. So in preparing himself he had reserved for the last his psychiatric textbook, Krafft-Ebing’s Lehrbuch der Psychiatrie, which he opened with the unpromising thought, “Well, now let’s see what a psychiatrist has to say for himself.”

Beginning with the preface, he read: “It is probably due to the peculiarity of the subject and its incomplete state of development that psychiatric textbooks are stamped with a more or less subjective character.” A few lines further on, Krafft-Ebing termed psychoses “diseases of the personality,” and the reader’s heart began suddenly to pound. He had to stand and draw a deep breath. His excitement was intense; for, as he tells, “it had become clear to me in a flash of illumination, that for me the only possible goal was psychiatry.” Here, and here alone, was the empirical field common to spiritual and biological facts. ~The Portable Jung; Introduction; Pages ix-x