Memory of C.G. Jung by Isabelle Hamilton Rey
Excerpts from Letter of Isabelle Hamilton Rey written from Zurich , Switzerland, 1933 to her husband in New York.
January 17th, 1933
.. . Today I had my first lesson with Dr. Jung; it is really a lesson.
He is immensely simple, and simply immense. He is kindly, understanding, and knowing.
He asked me a few questions, age, etc.
Looked earnestly at my face and hands, and then summed me all up, so that I could look at myself, as it were, and I could not say nay to a single detail.
He said, “We have a lot to do but we must proceed carefully; otherwise, we might touch a hot spot, and it will burn.”
I had a few of my recent dreams with me; he read them over, and without any further ado or questions-told me how my problems had been presented to me in the last few weeks. It’s black magic.
He speaks of the Unconscious as “the other side”-which gives me the same feeling I used to have when, as a little girl, I heard grown-ups speak of heaven.
You feel at once that he has great respect for it, and is perfectly capable of entering into negotiations with the forces of its fury and feeling.
January 29th, 1933
… Dr. Jung said Friday that my unconscious was still back in New York , but he was not surprised. That will never do.
He says I will have to manage to get it in Zurich, if he is to get in communication with it. Then I came home and dreamed that you [Mrs. Rey’s husband] unexpectedly joined me, and took me in your arms.
I never realized before, how little conscious control we have over that great unknown part of us.
One day we talked of Patricia [their daughter]. . . . I told him quite frankly that both you and I felt a tremendous responsibility for her attitude toward life; that we had both sincerely tried to face that responsibility, as best we could; after outlining her disposition, I asked him why she persisted in apparently doing the wrong thing.
He said, “Well, why don’t you let her do the wrong thing, as often as she likes?”
I asked, “Isn’t it my duty to guide her, as a mother?”
He said, “But you can’t-no more than I can guide you.
You come here to learn; I suggest so and so; or I say, to me it looks as if-but that’s all that any human being can do for another.
If you can’t see it that way, what good have I done for you?
Children have to make mistakes.
My boy and I had a discussion one day; he wanted to do something which I thought was wrong; I told him so: and he said “That may be all right, but I’ve got to do it my own way’-and I said “right you are.”
. .. During a seminar when the problem for discussion is unfolding, he walks up and down, and words of understanding come from him in a way that is only comparable with the variation and fertility of nature herself.
To illustrate a point, he may guide you thru the intricacies of philosophy, quote events in history, or tell you a simple tale of two peasant women; but he is always clarifying and broadening the horizon.
Or he will outline the mission of Christ on earth, so that its symbolism and meaning is reborn-and then suddenly, he becomes a learned Pharisee, and presents the viewpoint of the pious Jew of the day-and you are astounded you remember that men speak of the reconciliation of the opposites.
Occasionally, he will pause, and ask “How would you express that in psychological terms?” but on the whole it seems like a straightforward discussion of the problems of life.
It gives you the feeling that you have just come from the lower school, where day after day you struggled with multiplication tables, rules, ere., and now you have been promoted, and the task of applying it all begins and that your ego is getting smaller and somehow or other the Self is getting large.
When you go to him for a personal lesson, you go to his home in Kusnacht, by the lake. He sees you in his library, and you at once feel at home.
One does not feel the slightest awe or hesitancy in his presence; his words are very simple, and are chosen with fine discrimination
There you may express yourself without the least attempt to be technical-he is sure to understand just what you are saying.
If you wish to express a psychological law, that is different-then you must be correct.
He is so natural, and asks such simple questions that you meet the issue before you are aware of it.
His first question to me was “Why are you here, why have you come?”
You know at once that it is no use to banally say “to study with you”-he is talking of motive.
That is the way it works-you save a lot of idle words and time.
February 1st, 1933
… Dr. J. says “People are only too glad to jump out of their own skins, and into somebody else’s. There is nobody who can say this is your way. Everybody wants to hear which is his way.”
He mentioned this in class to show that humanity had always taken the same view of life’s difficulties.
He stresses the individual’s need and way, as opposed to all else, but emphasizes that no one can tell the individual what that way shall be.
Sunday, February 5th, 1933
. .. Am working on problem of opposites and there are indications of the appearance of my inferior function. These inferior fellows can be quite devilish-as indeed I have learned the superior ones can be too.
But speaking of the inferior ones, Dr. J. says: “The least differentiated function is always the one from which our renewal starts; it is just the one that yields the renewal of life; when a person has used up his conscious point of view, he capsizes; the thing which never has lived is as green and as fresh as spring-it means a complete reversal of the whole personality.”
So I am very patient with this particular inferior fellow-as know he has a potentiality worth wooing.
February 8th, 1933
Do I expect to get back this summer? How I would like to know!
I have only been working here three weeks but I gather from my teachers and associates that the question cannot be answered.
One person might do in three months or six months what it rakes someone else a year to do.
One hears whispers that such and such a person has returned to their home, but that is all; why, or how far they have advanced in their work, here; that is not discussed.
In every respect, the group that is working here does not seem interested in personal details and that seems odd, when you think of it, they are all here to do the work from an intensive personal angle.
Dr. Jung himself never mentions personalities.
He discusses at great lengths the symbolism of religion, philosophy, science, art, and mythology, as it affects an individual psyche; he seems to have an inexhaustible memory from which to draw analogies from history, early civilization, or the latest novel of the day; but the details of his story never include the slightest reference to the habits , characteristics or personalities of the individual under discussion.
It seems to be part of the technique of one’s training.
We soon come to understand that each one “makes an individual way;” no one can say or foretell what that way will be or how long it will take.
. .. We are taught that “nothing will remain forever; we must accustom ourselves to the idea that we are not going to find anything which is final and definite.”
If you count on me to “stir you up” when I get back, forget it.
I’ve learned that the other fellow must “make his way”-whatever that way may be, and I shall, I hope, have all I can do to make my way.
All you can really expect is my love .
February 8th, 1933
… I can only thank God that I have the opportunity to learn, and understand what collectivity means and what it always has meant to humanity … Miss H. is right when she says the patient (in Zurich) is in the hands of the ablest specialist; one feels like saying, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever knew; is not this the savior?”
That feeling melts rapidly in this psychologic atmosphere, where apparently some unseen influence has a balancing effect.
Everything seems much more impersonal about the work here.
The first time I saw Miss W. I felt lost-such an impersonal attitude, such apparent indifference, but ah , that’s where the seminar lessons come in.
Doctor Jung shows you that the person who is really invulnerable must of necessity seem to the other fellow to be indifferent.
… We are taught to look for and at our negative characteristics the less apparent they are, the harder to find and the more shocking to know. In order to face the individual problem, we are forced to objectify our individual unconscious contents but it is helpful to me to realize it’s the same old problem from Adam and Eve; the same forces thrash every human soul and most of us try to solve a universal problem in our individual way.
While our spark of consciousness approves the feeble effort, the great unconscious is daily massing her forces against our blind solution.
So I’m interested in those unconscious contents and when I get a glimpse of their symbolic meaning or former purpose, I am delighted.
I look it over, and examine it from every angle, as I was recently forced to do when I said to one such fellow, “See here, I didn’t know you were living in this house; but now that I know it, I must insist that you obey the rules of the home.
No more underhand work on your part.
I won’t tolerate stealing here; if you feel that you are being badly treated come tell me about it and I will consider your complaint. Remember that many other instincts have to live in this house with you, and from now on all decisions will be made in the conscious living room.”
That is a very satisfying way to meet unconscious instincts when I can, and is my infantile way of expressing a deplorable need to make unconscious contents conscious.
I am very fond of Miss Wolff, and enjoy my work with her. As Dr. Jung says-“she has a peculiar ability to stabilize an individual doing the work.”
You think I’m bright. You should know how difficult the work has been for me. To establish a bridge to the unconscious and then be willing and ready to accept what comes across that bridge. That’s a tussle.
Wednesday, June 21st, 1933
. . . Had my last lesson with Dr. Jung Monday at 5 to 6 p.m. and was dismissed with “go home and live it now … .”
Answering your letter: don’t worry that I’m more advanced psychologically or otherwise than you are; that’s the bunk.
Dr. Jung says , “One cannot say that a change is for the better-one can only say that it’s different.”
That covers it nicely; it expresses the way I feel.
I suppose I could express the finish by saying I did what I came here to do, namely-touch the hem of Dr. Jung’s psychological garment-but it all seems so different now; I think I looked for a sort of spiritual baptism, which would insure protection and perfect understanding; instead it seems to me I have undertaken the tremendous responsibility of maintaining a standard of consciousness, which is most difficult.
I can never turn back, but God knows the prospect ahead isn’t easy either. ~ C. G. Jung, Emma Jung and Toni Wolff – A Collection of Remembrances; Pages 70-75