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Memories Dreams Reflections

[Carl Jung on “Mythopoeic Imagination.”]

It is of course ironical that I, a psychiatrist, should at almost every step of my experiment have run into the same psychic material which is the stuff of psychosis and is found in the insane.

This is the fund of unconscious images which fatally confuse the mental patient. But it is also the matrix of a mythopoeic imagination which has vanished from our rational age.

Though such imagination is present everywhere, it is both tabooed and dreaded, so that it even appears to be a risky experiment or a questionable adventure to entrust oneself to the uncertain path that leads into the depths of the unconscious.

It is considered the path of error, of equivocation and misunderstanding. I am reminded of Goethe’s words: “Now let me dare to open wide the gate / Past which men’s steps have ever flinching trod.”

The second part of Faust, too, was more than a literary exercise. It is a link in the Aurea Catena which has existed from the beginnings of philosophical alchemy and Gnosticism down to Nietzsche’s Zarathustra.

Unpopular, ambiguous, and dangerous, it is a voyage of discovery to the other pole of the world.

Particularly at this time, when I was working on the fantasies, I needed a point of support in “this world,” and I may say that my family and my professional work were that to me.

It was most essential for me to have a normal life in the real world as a counterpoise to that strange inner world.

My family and my profession remained the base to which I could always return, assuring me that I was an actually existing, ordinary person.

The unconscious contents could have driven me out of my wits. But my family, and the knowledge: I have a medical diploma from a Swiss university, I must help my patients, I have a wife and five children, I live at 228 Seestrasse in Kusnacht–these were actualities which made demands upon me and proved to me again and again that I really existed, that I was not a blank page whirling about in the winds of the spirit, like Nietzsche.

Nietzsche had lost the ground under his feet because he possessed nothing more than the inner world of his thoughts–which incidentally possessed him more than he it.

He was uprooted and hovered above the earth, and therefore he succumbed to exaggeration and irreality.

For me, such irreality was the quintessence of horror, for I aimed, after all, at this world and this life.

No matter how deeply absorbed or how blown about I was, I always knew that everything I was experiencing was ultimately directed at this real life of mine.

I meant to meet its obligations and fulfill its meanings. My watchword was: Hic Rhodus, hic salta! ~Carl Jung, Memories Dreams and Reflections.