Memory of an Immortal by James C. Aylward
It is a high summer morning in the early fifties as I walk from the railroad station at Kusnacht toward the green-blue Zurichsee and to the house on the Seestrasse which proclaims over its door: called or not, God will be present.
Coming down through the garden of vegetables and roses I find Carl Jung examining plants.
Though dressed in shirt, tie and sports coat, Jung could well be wearing the green work-apron of a Swiss gardener as he pays such careful attention to what grows around him.
I say to myself: This doctor concerns himself with the vegetal soul.
There are chickens running loose in the garden . My thought is: The doctor gives freedom of movement to the animal soul. He is absorbed in what he is doing so I continue on to the house and ring the bell. The woman who answers tells me to be seated in the garden under a great shade tree.
In a few moments Jung comes over and joins me.
He seems genuinely interested that a Catholic priest is studying at the Institute in Zurich.
It has been a year and more since we first met at a Fastnacht parry when he invited me to come visit him. He speaks of how important it is to him that churchmen take a serious look at what he has written.
He says that he has learned recently that the Pope has been reading Jung.
To the question from Jung, “What’s on your mind?”
I reply: As a priest my heart is heavy with the question that is on my mind , namely the immortality of the human soul. I wonder whether we are daily involved with coming to terms with mortality or with a preparation for life after death.
I tell him that I am not looking for answers from him, but rather I wonder how he, a soul doctor, deals with the Christian doctrine of the undyingness of soul and personal survival beyond death.
Jung talks of the importance of what we do with our lives.
To the degree we have responded to the urge to consciousness we can leave a legacy for others.
I believe he says: We are immortalized in memory.
Oh yes, it is so. The soul has become immortal if we leave something behind for others. Psychology can affirm no other immortality.
I react with: That’s a lot less than I came prepared to hear . But it is simple, direct and does nor psychologize the act of faith. Belief in personal survival after death remains a matter of belief.
Jung seems to have told me that he wants to be well-remembered as one who has struggled to be awake and alert and responsible in this life.
For others he will leave the legacy of his struggle in the monument of his writings. His is an acquiescence to the likelihood of immortality in the memory of others.
We are off and running about religious practices and the assurances given by the apostle James in his letter “to the Twelve Tribes dispersed throughout the world” about the way of belief: If any of you falls short in wisdom, he should ask God for it and it will be given him . . . Bur he must ask in faith without a doubt in his mind; for the doubter is like a heaving sea ruffled by the wind .” (James I, 5-6).
Jung can quote from this letter on the practice of religion in Greek.
When I do not grasp what has been cited, he switches to Latin.
He is then considerate enough to further translate into English when he notices that I cannot grab hold of a New Testament passage as quickly as he can throw one.
I have the thought: The apostle James is immortal for me through the consciousness of Jung.
These hours with him will live as long as my memory endures.
The physician is reaching the priest how conversant he should be with the subject matter of his profession.
Jung brings up God as the most proper subject of conversation between two human beings.
He says that most people don’t look on God as worthy of entry into a salon.
People-even theologians-are embarrassed to talk about God. It is more polite to talk about sex.
But we stay with God and the images in which God is revealed and behind which God hides.
I’m very much into Jung and Job and figure that I should ask him to talk about his relationships with his father as an immediate key to Answer to job. But something tells me
that I should leave such ghosts as Pastor Jung to the mortality of non-statement and nor get into all this disenchantment with the curmudgeon who, under the name Yahweh, is jealous of human consciousness and might even want to control the market of consciousness . Jung insists that in all he says and writes he is dealing with the reality of the God-image.
God, the ontological being and the object of faith, is not his concern as a physician nor within his competence as an empiricist.
My reaction to all this talk about God is to trust the man Jung quite a lot.
So I confide my secret religious practice to him which, until now, I have mentioned only to my confessor Journet of Fribourg.
I say: I pray to God as Woman.
Much like my confessor Jung cocks his ear and, like Journet, does not seem to find anything wrong or unhealthy about this practice of religion. Again it is a matter of distinguishing between God revealing herself through imagery and God hiding behind the images.
The question arises: How far can one penetrate through the personifications of anima and find God in the process? The subject seems to be to Jung’s liking for his eyes
crinkle at the corners and there seems to be a special twinkle in them.
The subject now is Angels.
Jung has a lot to say about the experience of angels . Again he distinguishes between the empirical and the ontological in talking of angels as he did when the conversation focused upon God.
Angels , he says, are complexes. They rise out of the unconscious life. They are not persons but may be personifications and be given names as functional complexes.
They have a variety of functions and some are higher, that is, come from deeper layers of the psyche.
I say: Some angels are more arch than others.
He continues: Angelos is messenger. The word bespeaks the primary function of an angel, that is, to carry a message. But there are other angelic functions such as revering, adoring, guarding.
The messenger-complex wings upward out of the depths of soul and is pointed toward the fore of conscious awareness.
The message is spirit. Spirit is the content which the angel carries from unconscious source and tries to bring home to us in consciousness.
Restating what he has already written in The Phenomenology of Spirit in Fairy Tales Jung asks the question: What is spirit?; and replies to it: Spirit is
meaning. When we have meaning we are lifted up. Such spirit enhances consciousness.
Jung begins to summarize the morning’s conversation: Now these are fitting subjects for physician and priest to talk about, namely, God, soul, angels and spirit.
However, he says, if my medical colleagues were to hear us they would likely say that Jung is crazy to talk of such things.
Likewise, if your fellow professionals in religion were to hear us they might call Jung a heretic.
Our conversation is interrupted by the appearance of a woman in the garden.
She calls out: Dr. Jung! Dr. Jung! My host sighs as he rises from his chair and goes coward her. I hear the woman say that she cannot leave Switzerland and return to America without seeing him.
Jung talks with her about five minutes and when he returns to his chair says: You Americans of any age are so young in spirit. Maybe you are a little more unconscious than we Europeans. You cut through a lot of formalities and red-tape.
I think how unforgettable Jung has made the day for this woman. His kindness and care for her is a little bit of his immortality.
Although this was not my last visit with Jung it was the happiest one for he seemed so full of the scuff of life and so merry and serious by turns.
On the return trip to Zurich I began to reflect on the two hour visit in the garden on the Seestrasse: To be well-remembered, he surely will be.
To prepare such a monumental legacy of word and work as he is doing is the earth-side of the man’s immortality. ~ C.G. Jung, Emma Jung and Toni Wolff -A Collection of Remembrances, Pages 6-9.