To Kurt Wolff
Dear Mr. Wolff, 17 June 1958
Best thanks for your letter of June 3rd.
Your wish that I should expatiate at greater length on psychotherapy
seems to me unfulfillable because I have already written a whole lot on this subject from the scientific standpoint and none of it i s suitable for a biography.
I would have to expose a mass of empirical material which was very important to me personally, but unfortunately medical discretion forbids me to make use of it.
Some of the patients are still alive, and if dead they have relatives who could easily recognize from my account, if it were reliable, whom it concerned.
I have to be extremely careful in these matters.
As for my meeting with William James, you must remember that I saw him only twice and talked with him for a little over an hour,but there was no correspondence between us.
Apart from the personal impression he made on me, I am indebted to him chiefly for his books.
We talked mostly about his experiments with Mrs. Piper which are well enough known, and did not speak of his philosophy at all.
I was particularly interested to see what his attitude was to
so-called “occult phenomena.”
I admired his European culture and the openness of his nature.
He was a distinguished personality and conversation with him was extremely pleasant.
He was quite naturally without affectation and pomposity and answered my questions and interjections as though speaking to an equal.
Unfortunately he was already ailing at the time so I could not press him too hard.
Aside from Theodore Flournoy he was the only outstanding mind with whom I could conduct an uncomplicated conversation.
I therefore honour his memory and have always remembered the example he set me.
Incidentally I have discussed James at some length in my book on types.
If I were to write an appreciation of James from my present standpoint it would require an essay in itself, since it is impossible to sketch a figure of such stature in a few words.
It would be an unpardonable exercise in superficiality if I presumed to do so.
I regret that my biography, as I envisage it, is in many respects Unlike other biographies.
It is utterly impossible for me, without expressing value judgments, to remember the millions of personal details and then have such a conceit of them in retrospect as to tell them again in all seriousness.
I know there are people who live in their own biography during their lifetime and act as though they were already in a book.
For me life was something that had to be lived and not talked about.
Also, my interest was always riveted only by a few but important things which I couldn’t speak of anyway, or had to carry around with me for a long time until they were ripe for the speaking.
In addition I have been so consistently misunderstood that I have lost all desire to recall “significant conversations.”
God help me, when I read Eckermann’ s Conversations even Goethe seemed t o me like a strutting turkey-cock. I am what I am-a thankless autobiographer! With friendly greetings,
Very sincerely yours,
C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 451-453