Jung-Kirsch Correspondence

It is widely understood in medicine at this time that neuroses are functional in nature, meaning that certain pathological symptoms cannot be traced back to anatomically identifiable organs or organ systems.

There are no localized seats of disease in neuroses; instead there is “a certain something” which is ill or suffering and cannot be readily named.

The first investigations by Charcot and Bernheim showed very clearly that it was possible to plant symptoms by means of hypnosis – i.e. through mental influence – just as one could make them disappear again.

Thus the facts seemed to indicate that certain mental phenomena – thoughts, words, feelings, affects, or experiences – evoke neurotic symptoms, i.e. changes, which also have an impact on physical well-being.

As important as these discoveries undoubtedly were, therapeutically they were totally unsatisfactory. For it was soon recognized that the individual symptom did indeed disappear, but another took its place.

It is to Freud’s indisputable credit that he found an alternative way.

With his wonderful intuition, as if by chance, he discovered that when one causes a patient to speak in detail about himself, the symptoms also disappear; especially if a patient relates pertinent experiences with appropriate affect, the experiences will be, as it is called in medical terms, abreacted.

On such occasions, patients often also related dreams. Here again, the imp “Chance” led a highly gifted individual to a crucial discovery.

Freud soon recognized that dreams elicited vitally important material from the deeper layers of the psyche.

Long-forgotten experiences which may have adversely affected a person’s health came up from the depth of the unconscious.

With the discovery of dreams, Freud found a new instrument for treatment which in contrast to the coarse and violent method of hypnosis -originated in the patient’s own psyche.

The first dream analyses deeply impressed Freud and moved him to call the dream the via regia to the unconscious.

On the basis of these surprising new impressions, Freud very quickly felt the need to establish a theory about dreams – the famous wish theory – and with it began Freud’s unending tragedy.

Unexpectedly, by way of dreams, Freud had encountered the creative depth of the human psyche.

In the final analysis, every psychological theory originates out of the experience of whoever creates it.

It always depends on the subject and is capable, at best, of explaining the psychology of its creator or human beings similar to him.

It is either a fine- or a wide-meshed net, which indeed can pull much from the deep seas of the soul and bring it to light.

One cannot claim, however, that all organisms living in the seas of the soul have been caught with this net.

It is far more likely that huge numbers of living things of great diversity exist in regions where the net will never reach.

The distressing but inevitable fact is that the creator of a psychological theory catches himself in his own net and loses sight of the vastness of the soul.

An excellent example of the way Freud deals with the unconscious is his analysis of a dream which he published in his work Miirchenstoffe in Triiumen: She [Freud’s patient] is in an entirely brown room.

A small door opens to a steep staircase where a strange, little man ascends and enters the room. He is small, has white hair, a bald spot, and a red nose.

He dances in front of her around the room and acts comically.

Then he withdraws and descends the stairs.

He is dressed in a gray, tight-fitting garment. (Correction: He wears a long, black coat and gray pants.)

Here I cannot enter into all the details of Freud’s proposed interpretation and his odd use of associations but would like to emphasize one point which has methodological importance.

He writes: “The personal description of the little man fits her father-in-law without alteration.”

However, his annotation already indicates that the description of the person does not entirely fit the father-in-law.

Also, it is not clear why the dream did not mention the father-in-law if it referred to him.

The patient doubtless brings up the father-in-law as an idea that suddenly occurs to her.

The question is whether the little man explains the father-in-law or, conversely, the sudden idea of the “father-in-law” explains the little man.

What should be considered as real? To whom does the dream actually refer?

The simple question, how the associative material is to be used, shows clearly that the interpreter can bring his own attitude into a dream. In general, Freud tends to relate and reduce all dream figures to real persons.

Also, in this case, Freud says:

This is the father-in-law; then, without further justification, the father; finally also the penis.

The second association is to the German fairy tale “Rumpelstiltskin.” Freud comments, “‘Rumpelstiltskin’ also facilitates the access to deeper, infantile layers of dream-thoughts.

The droll little fellow (Rumpelstiltskin, father-in-law, or penis?) whose name is unknown, whose secret one would like to discover, who performs such extraordinary feats (in the fairy tale he turns straw into gold) the rage one feels toward him, etc. – these are elements whose relationship to the fundamentals of the neurosis can only be touched upon here.”

I ask for the reader’s indulgence for my dwelling on these details.

However, it is really necessary to ascertain, for once, on precisely what facts Freud bases his theories and to what extent he does violence to the dream with his “interpretation.”

Actually, he does not interpret the dream but only provides a number of “symbol” translations, so that nobody has truly understood the dream, but only receives, at best, some references to Freud’s well-known theories about infantile sexuality, the castration-complex, etc.

Rumpelstiltskin also does not merit further consideration after being recognized as the “penis.”

Is that what he really is?

Or is there again a confusion between the Phallus and the penis, the creative principle and the visible expression on the human body? Inasmuch as this physical part is also comprised in the Phallus, Freud’s theories may be accurate.

However, they cover only one aspect, and Freud does not recognize the larger and more essential one, which- with his oft-repeated phrase, “this is nothing but” is at first unconsciously and later, in Future of an Illusion, fiercely rejected.

Anyone who appreciates the fairy tale atmosphere of “Rumpelstiltskin” may prefer to perceive the little fellow who lives in the woods and spins gold from straw at night as the soul, or perhaps the nightly creative activity of the soul, manifested in dreams.

Is it not the soul which confers value on everything we are, think, feel, and believe, and which transforms an event into an experience, turning straw into gold?

Since I do not know the lady who had the dream and have no additional associations from her, I can only presume this interpretation, basing it on my knowledge of the fairy tale.

But isn’t it at least  just as possible as Freud’s view, based on the associations he mentions, as his conception of the little man as father-in-law, father, penis?

Would my conception provide a new understanding of the dream?

For example, the soul as the creative principle comes to her (by means of analysis) at night, in a dream, dressed in gray theory, and leaves her again when it is not understood.

As I said before, I cannot give an exact proof of this interpretation, but the allusion to Rumpelstiltskin, who after all is able to tum straw into gold, is certainly more than the male sexual organ.

Thus the tragedy of the Galut Jew has been realized once again in Freud’s psyche.

Fate led him into the creative depth of life, but at that moment he closed it off with a theory conditioned by his uprooting and his childhood experiences of the Galut.

“He roused the unconscious so that it gushed forth powerfully, but not in order to honor it as his superhuman, eternal part, but instead to obtain information and to give his children contemptuous names.”

Therefore, it is no surprise that strong oppositions arose against Freud and his theory.

Freud overlooked the fact that this resistance emanated not only from individuals who did not want to become conscious of their infantile shadow side, and so, for instance, did not wish to admit their perverse sexual fantasies.

There were also people who espoused an entirely different psychology and who lived, as it were, on a different island in the ocean of the soul.

The great Zurich psychologist C. G. Jung- upon whom, in his personal relations, Freud had made a great impression – grasped this great aspect of the unconscious and with it the huge importance that exploration of the unconscious could have for human intellectual development

On the basis of his experiences he could not concede that the psychology of all people could be explained with a view from only one comer.


He therefore avoided establishing one theory that should be viewed as the one and only solution.


When he casts his net into the sea of the soul, he remains cognizant of the fact that there is an infinite diversity of additional life in that ocean.

Consequently he avoids theories as such, preferring to leave the images of the unconscious in their natural state, pregnant with possibility.

For this reason, he has to live with reproaches of being “mystical,” unclear, and difficult to understand, which really bears witness to the fact that he recognizes the difficulty, complexity, and liveliness of psychic material.

These things can easily be destroyed with words, concepts, and intellectual haste.

With this attitude, Jung left behind the atmosphere of the sick-room.

He is no longer treating the neurosis but instead the suffering human being.

A neurosis is not a localized illness but rather a sickness affecting the whole human being – often without symptoms.

The person, the entire person, is suffering, perhaps because he has not found meaning in life, or the meaning of his life.

Everyone has dreams, and the unconscious has much to say to everyone.

The dream itself is never a neurotic symptom, but it has something to add to the consciousness of the patient, something he does not know, or something he is not sufficiently aware of.

Thus, Jung perceives the unconscious not only as the center of repressions, a rubbish heap of perverse fantasies, but instead as the creative life within us.

The unconscious is not neurotic. Our attitude to the unconscious determines whether we are neurotic or not.

Therefore, Jung strives to lead human beings to the experience of the unconscious; whether or not they succeed is a question of fate.

Jung often experienced that a patient’s contact with the unconscious affected the individual in a way which can only be characterized as “transformation.”

The unconscious is a part of nature, and like all of nature it is true; it is not hypocritical, it does not lie. Consequently, the dream does not have a facade.

It represents the text of the unconscious, and it is a text which wants to be read, and read according to what the writer wished to convey.

It can be compared to a letter somebody writes to us, which we should understand as much as possible as the writer intended it.

Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of the dream and of all messages from the unconscious is its strangeness from the point of view of consciousness.

It is as if we had nothing to do with the creation of the dream, but it was sent to us. So in German we often say, “Es traumte mir. ”

In ancient times, the dream’s strangeness in relation to consciousness was clearly perceived, and so it was said that a god or goddess had sent the dream.

This coincides with one of Jung’s fundamental conceptions.

He recognizes a higher force, greatly surpassing the human ego, an all-knowing force beyond time and space.

Within the unconscious he distinguishes two layers:

(1) a personal layer containing memories, experiences, feelings, affects, etc. which originate in the personal life of the individual; and

(2) the layer of the collective unconscious storing all experiences, images, possibilities, instincts, etc. acquired and developed by human beings in the course of millions of years.

They are embedded in a layer of guessed-at possibilities in the depths, ready to well up in an individual whenever his life encounters a dead end, or when his suffering cannot be alleviated by the limited means and experiences of the human mind.

For that reason, primitive people made a clear distinction between “small” and “big” dreams.

The small dream is of importance only to an individual, while the big dream is significant for the tribe or the general public.

On the basis of such big dreams, the fate of entire peoples has been decided.

For Europeans who are reasonably well informed about the life of primitive peoples, it is astonishingly impressive to experience how far-reaching the influence of a dream, a vision, an inner voice, and all manifestations of the unconscious can be on the lives of primitives.

However, we do not even have to go that far.

We merely have to tum our attention to our own early history, as it is recorded in the Bible, in order to be aware of the decisive importance of the dream, and the unconscious in general, for the life of our people.

For instance, I would like to cite a passage in The First Book of Moses9 20:3-6:

“At night, God appeared in a dream to Abimelech and said to him … ” It is self-evident that God comes to human beings in their dreams.

The voice which speaks in a dream is not the voice of the ego.

It has information to convey which is not known to the ego and which the ego cannot know on its own.

Naively, and without the slightest doubt, Abimelech is guided exactly by what the dream proclaims.

This brief example shows that the ancient people, unlike us moderns – “Triiume sind Schi:iume ” is the ridiculous opinion of enlightened people – attributed great significance to their dreams and regarded them as the source of God’s revelations. (Similarly in The First Book of Moses 31 :24.)

The same is true in Jacob’s dream in The First Book of Moses 28: 10-22.

A big dream, without doubt! It shows in a splendid way how Jacob’s soul initiates a relationship to the Highest and how an intimate exchange with the Eternal takes place. “God’s messengers ascend and descend.”

The experience touches Jacob in the depth of his soul.

He experiences the sublimity of the place and is deeply frightened:

“He was afraid and said: how awesome is this place! It is none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven.”

In this dream, we find three characteristic elements: (1) the imagery of the dream; (2) the direct language; and (3) the emotional affect of the dream experience.

It is generally known that dreams occur in images.

How these images are to be interpreted, however, is a problem that has been on people’s minds since prehistoric times.

Freud was not the first who thought these images speak a language.

The question is, of course, what language they speak.

Such a classic dream shows clearly the absurdity of a merely sexual interpretation.

In Jacob’s dream, an interpretation is initiated within the dream itself, through the prophecy of a blessing.

As a consequence, Jacob is quite certain that he did not invent the dream but that it originated in exalted spheres, where one also has to search for its meaning.

As he awakes, he is overcome by an overwhelming emotional impression that the Absolute, the Irrational, has spoken to him.

He knows that he has had a big dream, and he vows that the place where he had the dream is a holy place.

We sense the effect of the dream on Jacob and how he has been transformed by it.

For the future, this dream will have the greatest significance for the entire people of Israel and its history.

Joseph’s dreams have a different character.

Of course, they are also immediately recognized for their importance, and it is interesting to note that they were understood the same way by his brothers (The First Book of Moses 31 :5-8).

Here again, God’s messenger is speaking, and so the dreams confer importance and distinction to Joseph.

He feels like a special person, and his legitimacy is confirmed by these dreams.

The voice of the unconscious was not always heard.

An excellent example is the passage in Samuel:

“And God’s word was precious in those days” (I Samuel 3:1). It is wonderful to note the reverential attitude with which Eli and Samuel accept this voice.

More often than dreams, we find “visions” in the Bible, a vision in connection with a voice, and also apparitions where it is not at all clear whether they originated in a dream or a vision.

As varied as their content is, it is all the more essential to be clear about their structure and psychological construction.

In the vast majority of cases, not only the vision is communicated, but also the individual’s reaction to it.

A human being responds to the inner apparition, and often there is a continuing conversation between the ego and the absolute “Other,” e.g. The First Book of Moses 15:1 and Isaiah 6.

The vision oflsaiah’s call contains the primal experience.

It is recounted with the lively power of the great visionary.

It begins with a simple description of the magnificent experience (Isaiah 6:1-2):

“I saw God sitting on a huge, raised throne, and his robes filled the temple. Seraphim stood above him, and each had six wings. With two wings the Seraphim covered his face, with two wings they covered his feet,  and with two they flew.”

In the third verse, a voice is heard:

“Holy, holy, holy,” and with that the interpretation and comprehension of the marvelous happening has begun.

The enormous psychic upheaval of seeing God himself, even veiled by the wings of the Seraphim, is indicated by the shaking of the foundations of the threshold.

But he remains differentiated from what is happening within him. He says, “Woe is me, I am undone! I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5a).

The fact that he is not devoured by this vision shows the strength of his conscious personality.

In the subsequent verses the contact with the vision is fully resumed. The Seraph touches him with the burning coal.

He is cleansed. With this he is called, but also transformed.

When we submit such dreams and visions to a psychological analysis, there is no mention of the divine content itself.

Such an approach to things we are familiar with does not offend religious feelings.

On the contrary, it gives us as human beings a new understanding of the Immensity and its effects on the soul.

Certainly, Freud saw in the “unconscious” only repression and rejected contents of all sorts; but the consensus omnium, and also that of our Bible, knows it as the Highest speaking to human beings through the soul.

The Bible has various views of the expressions of the unconscious.

Originally dreams were considered to have originated self-evidently from God; this is especially clear in The Fourth Book of Moses17 12:6:

“And he said, Hear my words, when a prophet of God appears to you, I will make myself known by visions, I will speak to him through dreams.”

In contrast to this, Moses was deemed worthy of direct and sustained revelation:

“I speak to him from mouth to mouth and show my face, and he will not see the image of God through riddles.”

He appears to other prophets mostly in dreams.

And as we know, dreams speak a language which is difficult to understand; they pose riddles.

How to understand these riddles, and who is a ”poter, “have been questions throughout time. How could a prophet prove his identity?

Certainly, not every dream was sent by God.

Two personal prerequisites were necessary: spiritual purity and the absence of self-interest.

“Otherwise you will have night without vision, darkness without prophecy” (Micah 3:6-8): “Indeed, it will be night for you; you will no longer have visions. It will be dark, and you will be unable to do divination. The sun sets for the prophets, the day is dark for them. ”

The third prerequisite consists of an entirely irrational moment, a choice which occurred before the human being comes into existence. Jeremiah 1:5:

“Before I formed you in the body, I chose you, and before you emerged from your mother’s womb, I ordained you and appointed you as the prophet for all peoples.”

But also, the content of the prophecy is the Shibboleth, to show whether they were sent by God, whether they are authentic or not.

This is the sign, whether or not what they prophesy is a vision of their hearts.

Inauthentic prophecies have an entirely personal character and reflect the human ego with its desires and impulses.

The experience is missing that something objective, something other than “I,” has spoken.

This experience of the non-ego, the certainty that “It” is happening within me, and that the ego assumes a relationship with “It,” this is the characteristic of a true prophet.

If anyone has an authentic primal experience, like Jeremiah, that individual has a :fine power of discernment between the genuine and the false.

Referring to the fact that a dream has spoken is not sufficient.

There is something special about genuine inspiration, unlike the claims of other prophets.

Jeremiah 23:25: “I hear the words of the prophets who prophesy lies in my name. I have dreamed, I have dreamed!”

Only images can convey this unspeakable truth. Jeremiah 23:29: “My word is fire, says the Lord, a hammer which blasts boulders.”

This power of discernment for true dreams, in comparison to lying dreams (chalomot sheker) was lost soon after the appearance of the great prophets.

Since it was no longer possible to tell who had the real inspiration, dreams and prophets were rejected.

Amos, the most powerful of the early prophets, had said (Amos 3 :8): “The lion has roared; who should not be afraid?

God has spoken; who should not prophesy?”

But Zechariah judges the prophets with contempt, resulting in a tremendous social decline, from adviser to the king and leader of the people ( even if not always welcome as such), down to the lowest level of society.

Prophets and a spirit of uncleanness were now viewed as one and the same. Zechariah 13:2-6:

“I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirits from the land. If anyone should still make prophecies, his father and his mother, his own parents will tell him: You shall not live, because you have told falsehoods in the name of God. And his own parents, his father and his mother, shall pierce him through as soon as he prophesies. On that day, the prophets will be ashamed of their prophetic vision whenever they prophesy. They will no longer put on a hairy mantle to tell lies. Each one will say: I am not a prophet, I am a farmer; or, from childhood I was raised to be a cattle-breeder.”

The same as 2,000 years ago, we again stand at an important turning-point in our history.

The entire world finds itself in an era of enormous upheaval.

The old values and forms of religious and social ideology have little meaning for the psyche.

At best, religion is a “private matter.”

It is stored in a more or less hidden corner of our life.

In any case, religion is not the whole of life.

Life yearns for a new experience, for an attitude which embraces the entire life.

At this critical stage, many sufferers turn to physicians who are supposed to heal such conditions. Were the physicians equal to that task?

Did the physicians understand the suffering of the soul, which was manifested in the strangest forms of neurosis?

Did they know that the problems of the time and the eternal human question expressed themselves in the individual as depression?

Our hygienic era could not have responded in any other way than to label these phenomena medically as neurosis, illness.

And yet, fundamentally, these are very old experiences and have eternal answers.

The writer of Job, for instance, knew very well that the human soul is the place where supernatural powers, God and Satan, do battle.

He was also aware of their effect on human beings.

Job 3: 11-13: “Why did I not die at birth? When I came out of my mother’s womb, I should have died at once.

Why  did the lap receive me, why did I suck from the breasts? Then I could lie still and rest, I would sleep and be at peace.” Job 33:20-21: “All food disgusts him, even the most desirable delicacy.” Is this not neurosis and depression?

How does Job find a way out of this depression?

“In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people, in a light slumber on their bed, at that time he (God) opens the ear of the people and seals it with their teachings.”

Also for us, who experience people’s suffering and see how individuals express the radically shifting times as neurosis, the dream and all manifestations of the unconscious have proven – not by chance to be a fruitful path toward the patient’s healing.

With this we also have rediscovered an old path that leads the individual to the experience of the ancient fire, the “esh kedoshah. ”

And thus we have come to what we know, glancing at the Tanakh, as the essential, to that which made Jacob into Israel, to the primal experience of religion.

For us, of course, in contrast to him, these experiences take entirely different forms and produce different effects; but what we experience is always the One, the Unchangeable, at all times and in all places.

With the return to our own land it is necessary to remember our own essence, the special character of our existence.

Everything will depend on whether our heart will harden, our ears go deaf and our eyes blind, or whether this time our eyes will see, our ears will hear, and our heart will understand (Isaiah 6: 10).

Whether we can give the true name to that which speaks to us through dreams and visions:

“This is a holy place.” “Then he will heal us.”

The way such things are happening to us now as Jewish people, and what response the unconscious is giving to the Jews’ state of distress, may be illustrated by the following dream of a woman who heretofore was totally estranged from anything Jewish until awakened by events of the Hitler era:

Now I was crossing K. Street with Dr. S. and entered a store. There was a large exhibit of books and pictures. I descended further down a flight of stairs to the basement where especially rare and valuable books were stored. It was very dark there, and each book had additional lighting which was only visible as one stood directly in front of it. In the basement there was another room from which I heard voices, and I asked what was going on there. A small, bent-over man appeared, wearing a cap on his head and a heavy coat, with a large bunch of keys. He opened the door and pointed to a table, a large, round table, where ten men with long beards and caps were seated, holding prayer books. In the middle of the table was a silver box, lined with velvet, in which lay a diamond that sparkled so brightly, the table was lighted by it.

To comprehend the essential components of this dream, one only needs to extract what it contains.

The dream tells us that the lady goes into a store where all kinds of spiritual and artistic works are exhibited.

On the floor below especially rare and valuable things are stored, which require special illumination which is only visible when standing directly in front of them.

In addition, something extraordinary is happening, and a peculiar man is leading her to it.

This man we can consider to be the guardian of the threshold, the keeper of the keys, and in keeping with the entire atmosphere of the dream – a meliz, a religious figure who opens a spiritual room which is different from everything purely intellectual and artistic, as valuable as these may be. It is the religious community of Jews, and it is united and illuminated by the rays of a great gem.

So this dreamer, to whom until now Palestine and Judaism had consciously meant very little, found a very old truth.

She did not read or learn about it, but by experiencing the unconscious, she discovered the old Jewish idea that community can only be established with the help of the radiant force of a great symbol; the idea that the meaning and value of being a Jew and a human being are bestowed by this diamond, which is separate from all and yet unites all.

For this woman, and for psychotherapy, the same thing has happened through dreams as happened for Saul. He went out to search for female donkeys and instead found a kingdom.

She was looking for medication to treat a neurosis and instead found the royal diamond which heals the soul.

So I believe that dreams, visions, and other emanations of the unconscious can lead us Jews back to creativity, to humanness, and thus to Judaism and its lively further development.

We only have to learn, with the help of modem and exact science, to let the unconscious speak to us in its own language and to understand it. Intellect, art, and technology cannot save us, only the path that can revive the primal experience.

Then Israel – God’s warrior – could once again raise its full voice in the chorus of the great religions of the East. ~James Kirsch, Jung-Kirsch Letters, Pages 279-289