Back to the Rhizome 1960–1961
Although he was eighty-five in July, 1960, fate that year demanded yet another great effort from Jung.
I do not remember hearing him speak of his original refusal to become involved in a popular exposition of his psychology.
The first time I remember hearing him mention the subject was one spring evening when Ruth Bailey and he came to supper with us in Marie-Louise von Franz’s Tower.
By that time he had become quite enthusiastic about the idea of producing a popular volume to be called Man and His Symbols, and he asked for Marie-Louise’s collaboration.
He wanted to write only one of the articles himself, asked her to do the very important one on individuation, then discussed the formation of the whole book with her and who would be the best person to ask to write on each subject he wanted to include.
Only later did he ask her to undertake the editing of the whole book from the psychological point of view in the event of his death or ill health.
He did not actually begin to write his own article until some months later.
Jung seemed very well in the early summer of 1960 and was a great deal at Bollingen, including most of July, until just before his eighty-fifth birthday on July 26.
He even fulfilled a long-planned invitation to the members of the Psychological Club to spend an afternoon with him there.
Ruth willingly undertook the considerable work involved and, assisted by Jung’s daughters and daughter-in-law, made it a very successful party indeed.
It was especially enjoyed by those members of the club who had never been to Bollingen before.
Nevertheless, when I went down the next morning to help Ruth—as I usually did during those last years—I found Jung very thoughtful and sad.
I do not know, however, whether this was because he had not fully realized before how much the club had changed, since Toni Wolff was no longer there in her role of “club tiger” and how many familiar faces were missing, or whether it was a foreboding that this would be his last really happy visit to his beloved Tower.
At all events, he left for Küsnacht shortly after the club party, to return to his Tower only once again, in the early spring of 1961.
Jung’s eighty-fifth birthday was much more of a strain than his eightieth had been, and it soon became sadly evident that he was indeed five years older.
Nevertheless, he went through it all without showing that it was tiring him so much.
In addition to the same two C. G. Jung Institute parties at the Dolder Hotel, he was made an Ehrenbürgerc of his own village, Küsnacht, which, though he appreciated it very much indeed, involved him in yet another official dinner at the Hotel Sonne.
By that time he was so tired he had serious misgivings as to whether he would be able to get through the evening.
As usual, though, he rose to the occasion, and in no way disappointed his hosts, the Gemeindepräsident, Edward Guggenbühl, and the Gemeinderat.
When the birthday celebrations were over, Jung felt a great need to get right away, in order to be completely quiet for a time.
He decided to go with Fowler McCormick and Ruth Bailey to a favorite small hotel at Onnens in West Switzerland, which they had often made their headquarters before, for drives around its lovely and interesting environs.
When I went to help Ruth with her last-minute preparations, she told me she felt Jung was really badly overtired, but he seemed so glad to be getting away that she could only acquiesce in his wish.
Later she told me that at lunch, about half way to Onnens, he had seemed so seriously unwell that both she and Fowler had tried to persuade him to return home.
But Küsnacht just then was associated with too much effort, so he insisted in going on to Onnens.
That night, however, he was taken seriously ill.
The local doctor, who spent the night in the hotel, was very much afraid it would be the end but, largely thanks to this doctor’s efforts and the excellent nursing of Ruth Bailey,
Jung pulled through his collapse.
Naturally, the family had been notified that he was dangerously ill.
They could not bear the idea of their father dying in a distant hotel, so Marianne Niehus and her husband went to Onnens immediately, determined to bring him back in a helicopter.
This he absolutely refused, but since he was by this time considerably better, he did consent to return home in an ambulance.
Jung stood the journey very well, and was glad to be home again, especially since he was still too ill to have any obligation to meet demands.
Not long after his return, he told the same dream to both Marie-Louise and myself (separately).
We both had the feeling that he still thought he would probably die and wanted the dream to be recorded.
He saw the “other Bollingen” bathed in a glow of light, and a voice told him that it was now completed and ready for habitation. Then far below he saw a mother wolverine teaching her child to dive and swim in a stretch of water.
This was obviously a death dream, for he had often dreamed of this “other Bollingen” before, in various stages of construction, and he had always spoken of it as being in the unconscious, in the Beyond.
The end of the dream has the same meaning: the dreamer must soon pass into another element (usually called another world) and learn as different a way of adaptation as the young wolverine, who was already at home on dry ground, had to learn in the water.
Evidently Mother Nature was ready for the change and prepared to give him her full support.
This dream made both Marie-Louise and me very sad, for it was clear that Jung would soon be leaving us to go to “the other Bollingen.”
In fact, it may have been this dream that loosened his strong tie to his earthly Bollingen.
Once again, as had happened so often before, Jung’s complete acceptance of death gave him a new lease of life, to his own great surprise.
He recovered quickly and was pretty well all winter, but I do not think quite as well as before his eighty-fifth birthday.
At all events, contrary to his earlier practice, he made no attempt to go to Bollingen and also abstained from his usual winter visit to the Tessin. Although he was undoubtedly declining physically, his mind and psychic understanding steadily increased, right up to the end.
If he forgot the slightest thing (actually he did so less than when he was younger!), he immediately said:
“There, I told you I was getting senile!” If he believed this himself, it was the only illusion I ever knew him to harbor.
Although he remained steadily in Küsnacht until the early spring, he was very active.
He gave himself fully to writing his article for Man and His Symbols—which he wrote in English, since the book first appeared in that language—and to reading and criticizing the other articles as they were submitted to him.
He was especially pleased with Marie-Louise’s article and made no changes in it.
Jung wrote his article —“Approaching the Unconscious”—for Man and His Symbols in a different way from anything he had written for many years.
He was not pressed into writing it by his creative daimon, but was consciously obeying his dream.
He had dreamed that
“instead of sitting in his study and talking to the great doctors and psychiatrists who used to call on him from all over the world, he was standing in a public place and addressing a multitude of people who were listening to him with rapt attention and understanding what he said . . . .”
Explaining his psychology to people who knew nothing about it had long been most difficult and uncongenial to Jung.
I remember when I first came to Zürich, he told me he had to send those people who knew little or nothing of his psychology to his assistants first, because he no longer had sufficient patience to teach them the ABCs.
When he was asked to give three lectures during the war to the inhabitants of Küsnacht (who knew nothing of his psychology) he told me they gave him more trouble to prepare than all his other lectures put together.
Yet once having realized from his dream that there was “a multitude of people” who could understand his psychology, he never hesitated, but put himself to endless trouble to explain its most fundamental points as simply as possible.
His eightieth birthday experience and the many letters he received from simple people who had read his books or seen and heard him on television must have helped, for he was fully convinced that it was such people who could carry on his psychology.
At all events, there is no doubt that he gave his last months to unremitting effort in carrying out this task.
Perhaps it was the reason he had so unexpectedly been granted a new lease of life after Onnens.
In any case, if he had died then, about nine months earlier, this final article would never have been written.
Jung’s great concern with the future of mankind is evident throughout the paper.
He constantly alluded to the danger we are running of destroying ourselves and to the impotence of our conscious efforts to avert this disaster.
In fact, this article might be called his last appeal to man to realize the reality of the unconscious and above all to take his own soul seriously, for Jung saw that this was his sole hope.
Since Man and His Symbols has had a very wide circulation, and has been translated into several languages, this article has certainly been read by a far wider public than anything else he wrote in his last five years.
In fact, we may hope it has reached the people of whom Jung had the most hope: the people who read his books and let them silently change their lives.
Jung no longer had time to edit the book from the psychological point of view, as the publishers had hoped, but foreseeing this, he had arranged for Marie-Louise von Franz to do it for him.
John Freeman has already testified to her success in this endeavor.
Jung indeed read through all that was written of the book before his death, and finished his own article.
He also went steadily on seeing one or two people every day, and kept up his drives and short walks.
He even found the energy to attend the annual Christmas dinner of the Psychological Club, though it evidently tired him and he left soon after dining.
It meant a great deal to the members to meet him at this annual event, and I do not think he ever missed it, except for the years he was away in Africa and India, and in 1946 when he was very ill.
In March he again went to Bollingen with Ruth.
Hans Kuhn was also there, as often as he could be spared from his other duties.
Superficially, Jung seemed much as usual at Bollingen, but one felt it was no longer all important to him to be there.
Presumably, though he never said so, the attachment he had always had was now being transferred to the “other Bollingen,” in the Beyond.
But he was well enough to come up to lunch at Marie-Louise’s Tower on a day so lovely that we were able to have coffee outside.e He also could sit most days at his “water works” where the little stream ran into the lake.
He did not stay nearly as long at Bollingen as he usually did at that time of year.
As far as I remember, he was there only about three weeks.
Very soon after he got back to Küsnacht he had to go for a short time to the Red Cross Hospital in Zürich for a minor checkup.
He had not been in the hospital since 1944—when he was at Hirslanden for five months—and since he had then taken a dislike to hospitals, it was fortunate that this time he had to stay only two or three days.
Although we had been through the English of his article for Man and His Symbols while he was at Bollingen, he went on working at minor alterations for some weeks.
It soon became evident, however, that his physical health was really giving out.
He still saw a few people and went for drives, but on the last drive we took together (on May 6, exactly a month before his death) he did not walk at all, as had been his invariable habit up until then.
He also did not feel like talking, though he seemed anxious to see his favorite roads again, and we drove longer than usual.
One strange thing happened on this last drive: we met and were held up three times by weddings.
Even at the time, I was reminded of the “Todeshochzeit” and Jung’s experience on the way back from the Tessin just after his mother’s death.
I do not know if Jung noticed it himself.
I have the feeling he did, but he did not say anything.
Jung was out only once after this, for a drive the next day in his own car.
Although he was out a great deal on his large balcony, he no longer came downstairs.
About three weeks before his death, he had a slight stroke which blurred his speech a little, but did not otherwise lame him in any way.
Although he was still about, and even saw people occasionally, it was getting clear that his exceptionally strong body was at last giving out.
He had so often been on the brink of death, however, and been granted a new lease of life, that it was very difficult for us all not to hope that this would happen yet again.
But he was not deceived in this way himself.
He said, several days before his death: “Do the people know I am dying?”
It was evidently still important to him that there should be no repetition of the 1944 dearth of news.
He moved about on the second floor (his library, his bedroom, and a large balcony were on the same floor) until Tuesday May 30, exactly a week before he died, and even did some writing.
Then he had another slight stroke and had to leave his library for good.
He was just one week in bed and remained conscious to the end.
His last visions were largely concerned with the future of the world after his death.
He [Jung]told Marie-Louise, the last time she saw him, eight days before his death, that he had had a vision in which a large part of the world was destroyed, but, he added, “Thank God, not all of it.”
His last recorded dream which he dreamed a few nights before his death, we owe to Ruth Bailey.
She kindly wrote it out for me at the time:
- l) He saw a big, round block of stone in a high bare place and on it was inscribed:
“This shall be a sign unto you of wholeness and oneness.”
2) A lot of vessels, pottery vases, on the right side of a square place.
3) A square of trees, all fibrous roots, coming up from the ground and surrounding him. There were gold threads gleaming among the roots.
This is a very beautiful last dream, in which Jung’s unity and wholeness are confirmed and shown to him in the symbol of a round stone. The pots in
the square to the right are also full of meaning, when we remember that in ancient Egypt some parts of the dismembered corpse of the god Osiris
were kept in pots, because it was from these that the resurrection was expected to take place. Moreover, the old Greeks kept pots in their houses
full of wheat seeds. The pots and the soil represented the underworld and the seed the dead waiting for resurrection. About the time of All Souls’ Day, the pots were opened and the dead were supposed to join the living. Christ’s saying: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24) belongs in the same connection.
As to the roots, Jung said in Memories:
Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears above ground lasts only a single summer. Then it withers away—an ephemeral apparition. When we think of the unending growth and decay of life and civilizations, we cannot escape the impression of absolute nullity. Yet I have never lost a sense of something that lives and endures underneath the eternal flux. What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.
Now that the “blossom was passing away” and proving itself, like all mortal life, to be “an ephemeral apparition,” the eternal roots, that were also C. G. Jung, appeared above the surface and spread themselves protectingly over him.
This dream tells us with the greatest clearness that Jung was dying at the right time, and was about to be received by that rhizome which he had always known was there as his “true invisible life.”
Or, to use the language he used in Memories, his No. 1 personality was dying, but his No. 2 remained unchanged.
Jung died at a quarter to four on Tuesday afternoon, June 6.
There were again some synchronistic events, as there had been in 1944.
I remember most vividly that when I went to fetch my car, just before he died, I found the battery, which was not old and had never given the slightest trouble before, completely run down. This puzzled me very much at the time; when Ruth telephoned about half an hour later, it seemed quite natural and as if the car had known.
There was, however, no thunderstorm at the time Jung died (as has been reported from time to time).
That came an hour or two later, at which time lightning struck a tall poplar tree in his garden at the edge of the lake.
This is most unusual, for the water attracts the lightning and therefore trees and houses on its banks are usually immune.
The tree was not destroyed, only a great deal of its bark was stripped off. In fact, it was discovered by the family when they found the lawn covered with bits of bark when they went into the garden after the storm was over.
Jung himself said of death in Memories:
. . . death is indeed a fearful piece of brutality; there is no sense in pretending otherwise. It is brutal not only as a physical event but far more so psychically: a human being is torn away from us, and what remains is the icy stillness of death.
Everyone who had known Jung well was hit amidships by this fact, for his warm, genial physical presence had indeed been replaced by the icy stillness of death.
I remember Franz Riklin, for instance, breaking down when he heard the news and crying like a child, although in our long friendship I never knew him shed another tear.
He was president of the C. G. Jung Institute at the time and, although no president could have bothered Jung less with outer problems, he had always felt Jung’s presence behind him, giving him security and strength.
Jung had died so exactly at the right time, and his death was such a natural event, that we were able to pull ourselves together, to go on with our own lives and the life of the institute by the next morning.
Ever since Jung had so nearly died in India, I had been wondering how far his pupils would endure his death and be able to stand on their own feet.
The answer in 1938 was catastrophic, and not much better during his worst illness in 1944.
During every serious illness I asked myself the same question, and each time the answer became slightly more hopeful.
Had Jung died on one of the earlier occasions of illness, I am sure we should have felt his death to be a far more brutal catastrophe.
As it was, it was more a terribly painful natural event, that we must, could, and did accept.
I realized vividly how mercifully the unconscious had prepared us and how well Jung himself had taught us to stand on our own feet.
The C. G. Jung Institute carried on as Jung would have wished.
It shut its doors only for one day: Friday, June 9, the day of the funeral.
A good deal of pressure was brought to bear on the family to hold the service in Zürich, in the cathedral or the Fraumünster.
I am glad to say they remained firm and held it in their own village church.
Many people came from great distances, such as Fowler McCormick from Chicago, but Küsnacht church is exceptionally large and, although there were crowds of people, everyone found a seat.
Curiously enough, there was another thunderstorm during the service and afterward a downpour of rain.
As time went on and Jung continued to appear in dreams and active imagination, just as he had done in his lifetime, one did indeed realize that the rhizome—or No. 2 personality —seemed completely unchanged by death.
Death is indeed a paradox, as Jung himself had realized so vividly on his way back from the Tessin after his mother’s death.
Not that there is anything parapsychological or spiritualistic concerned; we simply cannot tell how much the individual Jung is involved, for, in his present No. 2 personality, he is utterly beyond our experience or comprehension.
Perhaps the help comes from an archetype that Jung’s whole life and teaching has constellated so strongly that in dreams it often appears in his form or speaks with his voice. I do not know.
When I stood by his infinitely peaceful and yet very remote dead body, I could only say “Thank you” again and again.
And that is how I still feel toward this life which was lived so fully and that we were privileged to know: a profound and boundless gratitude. ~Barbara Hannah, Jung: His Life and His Work, Pages 342-350