Dynamics of the Self

I was 26 years old when I first went out to Zurich to start analysis with Jung.

It is not difficult to imagine with what expectations, hopes, and, needless to say, projections, I arrived.

I knew that I was going to stay for three months, until Jung had his usual term break, and I was sure that the great magician, the old wise man, the archetype of the self, and what have you, would transform me from a rather insecure and diffident young man into a fully integrated total personality.

I gradually became more and more disorientated and disappointed when I noticed that absolutely nothing seemed to happen – I did not feel any different from what I had felt when I had set out for Zurich.

So I left after three months with a profound feeling of disillusionment and frustration.

Had it really been worth my while? All the great hopes, all the effort, had been in vain.

But then a very strange thing happened.

First my friends, then I myself felt that my whole life, my whole outlook, were gradually changing for the better, that I had got a much better grip on reality, a better understanding of relationship – in short that I had become a different person, much more positive and creative than I had ever been.

Only then did I realize how Jung, by an unnoticeable influence, had penetrated right into the depths of my psyche, how in an imperceptible way of creative passivity he had made myself clearer to myself.

Then for the first time I understood what it meant to be in the aura of a deeply integrated person, how the healing radiation of such a person could affect one profoundly without any immediate outward sign.

And then there is another experience which is characteristic of the way Jung worked.

In the winter of 1934 I had gone to one of the by now almost legendary seminars which Jung used to give on Wednesday mornings at what was then the Psychological Club in Zurich.

The seminar had been on the “Interpretation of Visions” which had already run for something like 4 years.

I no longer remember the exact content of that particular seminar, but it had been one of those days on which Jung had been at his very best and he had communicated a great deal of his unique wisdom and knowledge.

The seminar had been full of exciting new ideas and thoughts. I had felt deeply touched and stirred by all that had been said.

With me on this morning there had been two close friends; together we left the Clubhouse in the Gemeindestrasse in silence and concentration.

I was the first to break the silence, saying:

“Today he has truly talked about myself and my crucial problems and answered all my unasked questions.”

I shall never forget the almost indignant protest with which first the one then the other friend contradicted me:

“But no, he talked about my problems.” – “Nonsense, it was exactly my questions he answered.”

We broke off and looked at each other, realizing that a man had talked to us out of the centre of his being, and therefore from such a level that he included all our individual personalities and transcended them, that we had been in the presence of and touched by a man of true genius.

I have often remembered my experience of that day and thought about it.

It seems to me to contain a great deal of the secret of Jung’s personality and of a wisdom which far transcended rational formulation.

The possibility of talking to people beyond individual frontiers and barriers, of entering so deeply into the layers of common humanity, is only given to the one who himself lives in immediate relation to the sources of life.

I have often thought of the present which fate has presented to those who were allowed to meet in their own life such a person of genius.

To us today it may be difficult to imagine fully what sacrifices had to be made, what dangers to be met, before that person of genius had achieved such depth and intensity·.

For us who enjoy the fruits of the labours of the great pioneers of depth-psychology, it is easy to forget what it must have meant to a Freud to set out on the road into the problems of his dreams – a road, which Ernest Jones in his great Freud biography calls Freud’s “most heroic deed” – or for a Jung to expose himself so unreservedly to the powers of the archetypal images as he did.

At least we can see and feel something of Jung’s courage through his report in his Memories.

They make it evident what dark nights of the soul, which danger-fraught experiences had to be lived through before the deus abscondus, the hidden god, released his creative realizations.

In a letter of 1936, not published in the selection now available, Jung writes:

“The problem ·of crucifixion is the beginning of individuation, there is the secret meaning of the Christian symbolism, a path of blood and suffering – like any other step forward on the road of the evolution of human consciousness. Can man stand a further increase of consciousness?

… Is it really worth while that man should progress morally and intellectually? Is that gain worth the candle? That’s the question.

I don’t want to force my views on anybody else.

But I confess that I submitted to the divine power of this apparently unsurmountable problem and I consciously and intentionally made my life miserable, because I wanted God to be alive and free from the suffering man has put on him by loving his own reason more than God’s secret intentions.

There is a mystical fool in me that proved to be stronger than all my science. I think that God in his turn has bestowed life upon me and has saved me from petrification …

Thus I suffered and was miserable, but it seems that life was never wanting and in the blackest night even, and just there, by the grace of God, I could see a Great Light.

Somewhere there seems to be great kindness in the abysmal darkness of the deity … Try to apply seriously what I have told you, not that you might escape suffering – nobody can escape it – but that you may avoid the worst – blz’nd suffering.”

Such an attitude puts a heavy obligation on us who want to be his pupils: the obligation for personal decision.

Thus in my own analysis with Jung, about two years along, I dreamt that he had died. I was in his house in Kusnacht, in the ante-chamber of the room where he was lying in state.

I was depressed and dejected, and I paced up and down the room; suddenly my mood changed.

I felt new courage and determination grow in me and I said to a friend who was with me: “It does not make it better to moan and sigh. Now he has left us, and it is up to us to continue.”

When I told Jung the dream his reaction was simply: “All right, now you can begin your own work with patients.”

This experience of separation, which everybody experiences in one form or another, is without doubt a challenge to accept one’s own responsibility and find one’s own way.

This step into one’s own individuality means the end of identification with the great figure of authority; it may even mean that one may have to take a different path.

In this connection it is important to remember that today there are left only relatively few people who have encountered Jung personally.

To most people Jung will have become alive through his writings or, maybe, through analytical work with one of his direct or indirect pupils.

In this lies also the chance and the need for new searching.

Such new possibilities are not just of a personal nature, in the sense of a continuous challenge to oneself, but they also confront us with the need to test and query the discoveries and formulations of the great pioneers.

It is truly the essence of great research to create ever new levels of awareness which in their turn become the springboard for future discoveries and the enlargement of the present sphere of consciousness, even though we can as yet hardly discern in what direction any new steps may lead us.

I shall return to this point later on.

In the beginning I spoke of the dangers which a pioneer like Jung exposed himself to when he faced the world of the great archetypal images.

Another side of this travail is the loneliness in which the genius has to live.

When I read Jung’s Memories for the first time I was deeply moved and disturbed by the immense loneliness which they revealed.

This loneliness is manifest also in the continuous misunderstandings which the pioneer has to face.

And not only misunderstandings, but reproaches from the side of the collective that feels threatened in its foundations.

One morning I arrived in Jung’s house and found him in a bad temper.

With indignation he told me that he had been made the scapegoat for the breakdown of a patrician Swiss marriage, the partners of which he did not even know.

But was this accusation not perhaps justified in a certain sense?

Could it not have been that Jung’s thoughts about human relationships in their authentic meaning, about the obligation to inner honesty, and about the right to be seen and treated by the partner as a true individual had penetrated the collective, protective wall of this so-called good marriage?

Jung himself felt this loneliness as a heavy burden.

In a letter o November 1960, also unpublished, during the last year of his life, he wrote in a short and uncharacteristic bout of depression:

“Your letter has reached me at a time which was the tail end of a series of disappointments … I had to understand that I was unable to make the people see what I am after. I am practically alone. There are a few who understand this and that, but almost nobody sees the whole … I have failed in my foremost task: to open people’s eyes to the fact that man has a soul, and that there is a buried treasure in the field and that our religion and philosophy are in a lamentable state … ”

Jung’s words express clearly how he experienced and suffered from the incompleteness and faultiness of the world’s condition.

But it is just out of such realizations that the creative spirit helps to shape the character of a new generation.

In what then do I see these great concepts pointing into the future?

I cannot go into a detailed account of the more practical and therapeutic discoveries.

Let me mention only a few fundamental ideas, such as Jung’s typology, so often misunderstood as a schematic pattern of personality, but in reality revealing the dynamic interplay of opposites; or his revolutionary discovery of the psyche as a self-regulating system, based on his description of the creative function of the unconscious; or again his description of the mechanism of projection or of the dialectic relationship of analyst and patient and of the phenomenon of counter-transference; his strikingly new definition of the symbol with its dynamic and integrative effect as a transformer of energy,

emphasising a finalistic point of view as against a purely causal one, or still again his discovery of the archetypes of the collective unconscious which opened up completely new vistas into the understanding of psychic processes and for the content of the imagery of religion, alchemy, poetry, and many other subjects.

To these there still has to be added the concept of synchronicity as a profound challenge to the assumption of universal linear causality.

And finally, as the synthesis of all Jung’s ideas, we have to mention his concept of the process of individuation.

One could, of course, talk for hours on each of these subjects.

Instead, I want to concentrate on a few aspects of his work which I regard as particularly important in their wider cultural significance.

Here I think first of Jung’s concept of the reality of the psyche, then of the creative role of Eros, and thirdly of his emphasis on the individual as the creative centre of cultural development, giving human life its dignity and meaning.

First, let us consider the reality of the psyche.

My initial dream in my analytical work with Jung brought me into immediate and convincing contact with the factual way in which he approached psychic contents.

Just before my departure for Zurich I had seen in a dream a large map of India, a dream-India, with its characteristic great triangular shape.

I had landed on the coast and set out on a dangerous expedition into Tibet.

There were numerous geographical details on my dream-map which could not be found on any real map. But what did Jung do?

He did not treat my dream in an abstract and, as one might have expected, purely analytical, way.

Instead he fetched an enormous atlas of the world, and the great master and the rather anxious beginner knelt together on the floor and studied the map of India.

So told, it may sound a trivial event; but it made all the difference to me; it went right into my guts and conveyed to me the uniquely real way in which Jung treated psychic facts.

Another example is perhaps even more striking.

During an interview Jung was called. to the telephone by an urgent message.

A patient was in dire distress, in an almost schizophrenic condition of being flooded and swamped by the invasion of powerful archetypal images.

Full of terror she told Jung over the telephone how she felt in the midst of a typhoon, tossed about helplessly in her small boat.

How did Jung react? All he said very calmly was:

“Well, if that is so, you just reef your sails and lie down quietly at the bottom of your boat until the storm has blown over”. And it did – the patient survived the crisis safely. I hope it is not necessary to try and describe further what Jung meant when he talked of the reality of the psyche. He himself has called the idea of psychic reality “the most important achievement of modern psychology”.

So far from being a mere epiphenomenon or what has been called a Cartesian “ghost in the machine”, the psyche was for Jung in his own words “superlatively real”.

In a different context he said that “the world hangs on a thin thread, and that thread is the psyche of man”.

When Jung describes the scientific study of the psyche as the science of the future, so we may today ask ourselves which directions such exploration might possibly take.

Jung himself was fully aware of the fact that his revolutionary concept of the reality of the psyche was still unacceptable to the vast majority of people.

And how few people are even today prepared to acknowledge the decisive role of the psyche for religion, philosophy, art, or – especially – for politics, economics and other apparently purely material areas.

The still predominant lack of understanding of the discoveries of parapsychology also clearly demonstrates the resistance against psychic realities.

The idea that there exist forces or entities of a psychic or immaterial nature which can directly influence the material side of the world, is still anathema to most even though the discoveries of psychosomatic medicine should have opened a breach in the wall of pure materialism.

Here one must mention Jung’s fertile idea of the coincidence and. parallelism of psychic and physical phenomena.

It could explain a great deal of what parapsychological as well as psychosomatic research has discovered.

What a revolutionary idea to talk of the unity of the subject of psychic and physical research!

What courage to venture forth into the dark frontier areas of psychic existence!

And what does science today think of Jung’s important concept of synchronicity which in the long run points towards a hidden order and meaningfulness of the universe, far transcending purely rational formulation.

Does Jung’s so-called and often criticized lack of clarity and preciseness not spring exactly from this familiarity with non-rational and numinous processes, hidden to most, from his daring to venture into unknown and even forbidden territory?

Jung was only too aware of this quandary, but he had deliberately decided to forego “scientific” clarity for the sake of psydhological truth which demands an “open” and equivocal language, doing justice to the hidden and symbolical meaning of psychic processes.

Boris Pasternak has expressed a similar view from the poet’s standpoint.

He says: “I am always astounded to see that what is laid down, ordered, factual, is never enough to embrace the whole truth, that life always brims over the rim of every vessel”.

And the words of Matisse: “L’exactitude ce n’est pas la verite”‘ are well known.

Jung’s interest in every human phenomenon, every aspect of man’s psyche, led him to the exploration of subjects which many people regarded as “unscientific”.

He had the courage to stand by his experiences even where they seemed to transcend the limits of rational explanation.

For this he has been called a mystic, a philosopher, or even a prophet.

But in fact Jung here showed the courage of the true scientist who looks at facts as they are.

To give only one example:

I do not know how many of my readers are familiar with or have even used the oracle of the ancient Chinese Book of Changes, of the I Ching.

Jung has written a foreword to the 1950 English translation of the I Ching where he calls it “a great and singular book”.

There he reveals that, having first learned about its practical application from Richard Wilhelm, he had interested himself for many years in the oracle-technique of the I Ching.

He did so because, as he says, “it seemed to me of uncommon significance as a method of exploring the unconscious”.

The great puzzle is, of course, how any book, particularly one originating thousands of years ago in a different culture, can give convincingly meaningful answers.

That it does so seems to me beyond doubt.

I have long considered the I Ching the most expressive symbol for the profoundest content of analytical psychology.

It seems to me that whenever one consults the oracle one commits, knowingly or unknowingly, a metaphysical act of greatest significance.

Whoever uses the oracle seriously tunes himself each time into a cosmic process which reveals the coincidence of individual fate and universal fate.

The oracle confirms the individual as a meaningful particle of the universe and bears witness to his continuous interrelation with its processes and laws.

Such interdependence is a testimony to the individual of his dignity and significance; it is a token of his integral place in the cosmos.

Jung has described this interdependence and correspondence impressively in his essay on the “Transformation Symbolism in the Mass” when he speaks of the double aspect of the Mass, its divine and its human significance.

He says:

“Although this (sacrificial) act is an eternal happening, taking place within the divinity, man is nevertheless included in it as an essential component … Just as, in the sacrificial act, God is both agens et patiens, so too is man according to his limited capacity … ”

We still know so little of the workings of coincidence that each time we meet them we are deeply stirred, as for instance in the oracle of the I Ching.

Here surely, Jung has opened up new vistas for the future.

He has shown the potentialities of human consciousness for further development, pointing in the direction of an ever deeper relation to the pregnant depth of the psyche and its reality.

I think it possible that Jung’s greatest importance lies here, more than, for instance, in his psychotherapeutic ideas.

It seems to me likely that Jung’s metapsychological insights will have the greatest influence in shaping the future.

In them we have the foundation for a psychology of civilization and culture.

But in all this we should not forget Jung’s deep roots in the realities of this world, his enormous vitality, his earthiness and love of nature, his tremendous sense of humour, his antipathy to the misuse of oracles and uncritical acceptance of Eastern teachings – in short, the fact that he was a man of the immediate present and its needs, grounded firmly in the best of European tradition as well as a cosmopolitan looking far into the future.

As far as Jung’s psychotherapeutic discoveries are concerned, I believe in an ever growing convergence of different psychotherapeutic schools in spite of their different and even contradictory anthropological images.

I believe this mainly because every true therapist is in the long run confronted with the same reality, which is the reality of the patient who has given him his trust.

But Jung has pointed far in the future, not only with a new image of man but also with a completely new vision of a cognitive approach to reality which comprises both the rational and the non-rational.

When Jung time and again emphasises the scientific character of his work – and it seems to me sometimes overemphasises it – we can perhaps still see a residue of his struggle with the limitations and misunderstandings of his contemporaries.

A fascinating and sad comment on this is how one of the leading English text books on psychiatry treats Jung’s work.

Apart from mentioning briefly his word-association studies, all the authors have to say about Jung, in a book of over 600 pages, is that “his interest in Eastern superstition and alchemy betrays his indifference towards the scientific attitude”.

Henri Bergson once remarked that humanity has from all eternity been surrounded by electricity, but that it took milleniums until man discovered it.

Perhaps we can equally say that there exist forces in the psyche inherent in it from the very beginning, but their discovery needed a similar time, the larger part of which still lies before us.

If we pursue Bergson’s remark further, we may perhaps say that we are not only faced with inner psychic forces, but that as in the case of electricity we are surrounded by forces which we are still largely or completely unaware of, but which nevertheless exert the strongest influence.

Here again we may assume a correspondence between within and without, a correspqndence which could do away with the fatal opposition between and separation of subject and object.

What happens outside me has its correspondence within me, and what happens within me is the symbolic expression of the world around me.

How far Jung went with his approach to the problem of inner and outer reality is shown by a remark of his that, if there occurred an accident outside his house, he would have to ask himself in what way he himself was in disorder.

And on an everyday level concepts like animus and anima, shadow or projection, when taken seriously, show the profound coincidence of inner and outer events.

The woman or the man outside cannot be separated from the image of the inner woman or man, the animus or anima; the negative situation or person outside has an inseparable correspondence to my inner negative side, the shadow, which we experience in our projection on an outer person or situation.

The Swiss psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger has talked of the doctrine of the cleavage of being into subject and object as “the cancer of all psychology”,  and from the side of physics Heisenberg remarked that “the common division of the world into subject and object, inner and outer world, body and soul, is no longer adequate … ”

This is exactly what Jung has expressed in his profoundest writings.

Take the idea in art of negative space.

This concept signifies that an object is not only definable by its contours but just as much definable by the space surrounding it.

In other words, the “outline” of an object is also the “inline” of the space around it.

I can draw an object by its contours, but also by the planes or spaces surrounding it.

Henry Moore for instance has made considerable use of this means of representation.

Analogously, man is just as well definable by his outlines, his boundaries, as he is by the inline of the cosmos surrounding him.

This vitally changes the relation of subject and object, so that inner psychic forces could also be explained and understood as manifestation of outer energies around us.

Here we have one of the philosophical problems of perspective as it has been developed in the Renaissance: perspective separates object and subject in an illusory way whereas up until then, say in the paintings of a Cimabue or a Giotto, the unity of subject and object is preserved, not to speak of Chinese painting or Byzantine art.

It is not by chance that the discovery of perspective went hand in hand with the discovery of rational scientific methods.

Necessary, inevitable and creative as they were on the way to greater consciousness, they have suffered the hubris of their one-sidedness.

Jung has done a great deal to establish a synthesis on a higher plane by his exploration of the non-rational aspects of the psyche.

In a letter of 1937 he expressed the interdependence of inner and outer forces:

“Action as we know can take place only in the third dimension, and the fourth dimension is that which actually wants to grow into our conscious three-dimensional world. This realization is man’s task par excellence. All culture is an extension of consciousness, and just as modern physics can no longer do without four-dimensional thinking, so our psychological view of the world will have to concern itself with these problems … ”

Here lies an enormously important and still largely unworked field of research for us.

Parapsychology, psychosomatic medicine or the secrets of the I Ching are just a few of the areas in which only spadework has been done.

But they make one speculate about the possibility that phenomena like the “psi” function of parapsychology, still considered as rather esoteric occurrences, if not as unscientific phantasies, may point to new enlargements of human consciousness in general in the future.

All this is supported by recent explorations into the role of the right hemisphere of the brain, with its importance for the non-rational, intuitive, artistic, holistic faculties of the human mind.

Now, after having talked about Jung’s concept of the reality of the psyche, let us consider his emphasis on the creative aspect of Eros, the carrier of relatedness and instinctive wisdom.

In a way all of Jung’s research which occupies itself with the non-rational at least hints at the world of Eros.

This is most evident in his alchemical writings in which time and again the fourth principle stands at the centre, the forgotten or lost feminine.

The whole area of the non-rational, of the Prima materia aspect of the psyche, of its yin aspect, is deeply connected with Eros.

This is nowhere more impressively formulated than in Jung’s “Answer to Job”, where God’s Sophia appears as the principle of the future, as highest authority, that which can revitalize and transcend an obsolescent and rigidifying concept of God.

It is no mere chance that “Answer toJob”, with its inherent avowal of Sophia, is Jung’s most personal and human book.

When, in a letter to Erich Neumann in 1952, he sets his realizations (Erkenntnisse) i.e. Logos, against his state of being seized (Ergriffenheit) in which he wrote the book, and when he calls this state “barbaric, infantile and abysmally unscientific”, he expresses his profound and immediate relationship to the yin side, to Eros.

Here Jung has initiated an historic change of accent, the importance of which we can as yet hardly grasp.

Another side of the problem of Eros is that of personal relationship.

The conflict Eros-Logos is, after all, not confined to psychological theory but is first of all of immense personal significance.

Here the problem. of Eros passes over into the third area mentioned before, that of the individual as the creative centre of cultural development.

Nowadays it is a commonplace to talk of the gap between man’s moral/ emotional development and his technological advance.

All of us, be it in the personal or professional sphere, are perpetually hit and hurt by the state of disorientation and anxiety in which mankind lives today.

Most of all this is a problem. of the young generation.

The violent excesses of youth, the exaggerated emphases on sexuality, the use of drugs – are they not all expressions of despair and perplexity and alienation which together can be called the syndrome of our time?

But there is a different hidden aspect, the inclination towards the nonrational and Eros, manifesting itself only in primitive and chaotic forms because it is so new.

“Women’s lib”, protesting against the degradation of femininity, against the loss of true Eros; industrial unrest, manifestly concerned with material advantages but essentially, at bottom. springing from. a reaction against the degradation of uncreative work; and last but not least the growing protest of the young generations, they all have their significance positive side – in them. we can discern the deep desire and need for genuine values, honest relationships, and total commitment.

The hypersexuality of our days expresses the longing for true Eros and the experience of transpersonal powers; the drug craze contains the intense wish for the non-rational, numinous and archetypal.

The young generation expresses the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, with all its potentialities, problems and dangers.

They seem to express Jung’s message in a state of archetypal chaos, as it were, still contained in its Prima materia or materia confusa state.

One cannot overlook the fact that they are too often lacking the direction of the ego, the control of consciousness, allowing too m.uch play to the destructive side of psychic energy.

In the long run the outcome will depend on the role the positive factors will or will not play in their thoughts and actions.

But this seems to be a problem. inherent in every development which has in itself the germs of futurity and the potentiality for greater consciousness.

Dare we forget that we find ourselves on the verge of a new aeon, that Aquarius puts his demands, even though their fulfilment may be accompanied by crises and catastrophies characteristic of every transition into a new era?

Need we recall the transition from the aeon of Aries into that of Pisces which destroyed an ancient world and saw the birth of Christ?

I am constantly impressed by the interest of the young generation in Jung’s ideas, or in such related books as those of Hermann Hesse, or the I Ching; and even more impressed by the seriousness of their searching which characterizes the best among them.

Jung’s growing influence which often seems to work in a hidden way is difficult to assess.

But it seems to me that he plays a world-historic role through the profundity of his ideas.

Through them he talks to everybody, to the old who have become concerned about the impasses into which their obsolescent and obsolete attitudes have led a whole generation, and to the young who are facing the same situation, clamouring for change and renewal.

This common concern manifests itself most significantly in the renewed experience of the dignity of the individual who in his relation to transpersonal values and in his living encounter with Eros has the chance to build a new and truly human religiosity.

The revaluation of Eros, the ascertainment of the reality of the psyche, the new vision of man as partner in a cosmic process – they all have to be seen in their wider historical context.

With them, as with his other discoveries, Jung proves himself the pioneer of transition and transformation, of a new aeon.

It is up to us to take true and individual possession of what we have inherited from him. Adler, Gerhard – Dynamics of the Self, Pages 97-110