Letters of C. G. Jung: Volume I, 1906-1950 (Vol 1)

Dear Mr. N., 5 July 1932.

You will realize the extraordinary difficulty of telling anything about dreams of people one doesn’t know.

Your dream has interested me indeed.

The second part of it, the secretary-bird and the snake, has been correctly interpreted, in spite of the fact that the snake is not exactly Kundalini because the Kundalini serpent actually Dissolves into light.

But sure enough the two animals represent a pair of opposites which represent spirit and matter, or the spiritual and chthonic principle.

Yet the fact that they are represented by two animals mean according to the rules of dream interpretation, that this peculiar conflict does not take place in a human consciousness, but outside it in the collective unconscious.

Since olden times the bird and the snake are the symbols which typify this conflict.

It is a peculiarity of our Western mind that we can think such a conflict consciously without having it.

This is rather a peculiar fact which, I find, is most difficult to explain to the said Westerner.

It’s rather a curse to be able to think a thing and to imagine one possesses it while one is miles away from it in reality.

So this dream has a peculiar introduction which you omitted completely in attempting an interpretation.

You behave exactly as if you were possessing the two opposites, like any good Westerner.

What happened in reality was the following thing: you did try some Yoga stunt, and then the dream said, “Look out, that lovely young lady is threatened by the presence of the Gila
monster, pregnant with sensuality!”

You see, in spite of being a man in advanced age, you still have a young soul, a lovely anima, and she is confronted with the dangerous lizard.

In other words, your soul is threatened by chthonic poison.

Now this is exactly the situation of our Western mind. •

We think we can deal with such problems in an almost rationalistic way, by conscious attempts and efforts, imitating Yoga methods and such dangerous stuff, but we forget
entirely that first of all we should establish a connection between the higher and the lower regions of our psyche.

Such a connection exists in Eastern man, while we are cut off from our earth through more than a thousand years of Christian training.

Thus the Western man has to develop that connection with his unconscious first, and then only he will understand really what the Eastern methods aim at.

If he can’t establish the connection then the conflict between bird and snake remains a sort of vicious circle that turns round and round in his mind and never even touches our reality,
it remains a mere fantastical pastime which as a rule creates an unwholesome inflation.

Now watch what the bird is doing: he plunges his head backward, out of your sight, which is a very unusual thing for the secretary-bird to do.

Now that is a hint of what one really ought to do: if you look down in front of you, you are in the sphere of your consciousness, but if you look backward, you look into the region of your unconscious, which is always there where we haven’t got the eyes of our consciousness.

So the bird tells you, you ought to look behind your back and then you would discover the means by which you can attain your end.

Your aim is to kill the lizard that threatens the anima.

You are the secretary-bird that should protect the anima.

You can protect your anima by Yoga exercises which only procure a conscious thrill, but you can protect her by catching the unconscious contents that well up from the depths of yourself.
Try to see your fantasies are, no matter how disreputable they seem to be; that is your blackness, your shadow that ought to be swallowed.

The serpent is the bird, and the bird is the serpent.

You know, Eastern Yoga is based upon man as he really is, but we have a conscious imagination about ourselves and think this is our Self, which is an appalling mistake.

We are also our unconscious add that is why the bird swallows the black snake, namely to show what you ought to do in order to be complete.

Not perfection, but completeness is what is expected of you.

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. 1, Pages 95-97