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Symbolic Life

The atmosphere of this book is only too familiar to me.


On reading the manuscript, I found it difficult at first to extricate myself from the toils of day-to-day psychotherapeutic practice—until I succeeded in viewing the book against its historical background.

It is indeed something of a literary orphan, seeming to have no affinities with the present. Its strange form—the adventures of an allegorical hero—reminds one of the eighteenth century.

But this is no more than a reminder, for the book is quite alien to the eighteenth century in its feeling.

The problem of feeling is altogether modern, and the book opens up a world of experience that seems to have been locked away since the time of Rene d’Anjou—the whole sensuous world of Eros, which the latest Papal Encyclical on Christian marriage and the penalistic conscience of modern man have conspired to suppress in a quite terrifying manner.

Actually it is an esoteric book, a petal fallen from the unfading mystic rose which the troubadours accused the Church of hiding under a veil of secrecy.

As though any Church had ever known the secret, or knowing it could have tolerated it!

This book is neither for nor of the masses. For the multitude, it had better not been written, or should be read only because of its bad reputation.

They will be lucky if they emerge unscathed.

Nearly five hundred years ago a similar book was written, again at a cultural turning-point, and again a petal from that mystic rose—a knightly adventure and a stumbling-block to the vulgar, the Hypnerotomachia of that celebrated Poliphilo, who for a moment twitched the veil from the psychic background of the Cinquecento.

From the preface to that book I would like to set down a classical passage which shows how the Knights of the Rose join hands across the centuries

From this it is evident that all wise men have practised their sciences beneath the shadow of the fairest, innermost secrets of Love.

Love was, and is still, the graceful brush which traces out all that is strange and appointed by Fate, as much among the higher as the lower powers, and all that is subject to them. . . .

Know, see and hear, and you will wisely remark that the most splendid, sublime, and precious mysteries are hidden beneath the beauties of Love, from which they issue anew, for Love is the joyful soul of everything that lives. . . .

Should I discover that some profane person had put forth his odious hand to this book to finger it, or that some unworthy creature should make bold to turn its pages, or that some shameless dissembler, under the cloak of piety, should derive a vulgar pleasure from it, or that some evil-minded spectator of these sovereign gifts should seek, from boredom, the profit that by right belongs only to loving hearts, I would break the pen which has described so many configurations of the great secret, and, utterly forgetful of myself, would expunge all memory of the satisfaction I have found in the narration, delicately veiled in the semblance of pretty fictions, of things most wonderful and rare, which serve but to elevate a man to all that is virtuous, and

denying myself the very life of my life, I would abstain from the eager pursuit of those voluptuous charms which draw men towards the sacred delights.

Since witless literal-mindedness has not died out in four hundred years, I would like to impress upon the reader the classical warning which the unconscious gave Poliphilo on his journey into the darkness:

“Whoever thou mayest be, take of this treasure as much as thou willst. Yet I warn thee, take from the head and touch not the body.”

Life is in truth a battle, in which friends and faithful companions-in-arms sink away, struck by the wayward bullet.

Sorrowfully I see the passing of a comrade, who for more than twenty years shared with me the experiment of life and the adventure of the modern spirit.

I first met Hans Schmid-Guisan at a conference of psychiatrists in Lausanne, where I discussed for the first time the impersonal, collective nature of psychic symbols.

He was then assistant physician at the Mahaim Clinic in Cery.

Not long afterwards he came to Zurich, in order to study analytical psychology with me.

This collaborative effort gradually broadened into a friendly relationship, and the problems of psychological practice frequently brought us together in serious work or round a convivial table.

At that time we were especially interested in the question of the relativity of psychological judgments, or, in other words, the influence of temperament on the formation of psychological concepts.

As it turned out, he developed instinctively an attitude type which was the direct opposite of my own.

This difference led to a long and lively correspondence, thanks to which I was able to clear up a number of fundamental questions.

The results are set forth in my book on types.

I remember a highly enjoyable bicycle tour which took us to Ravenna, where we rode along the sand through the waves of the sea.

This tour was a continual discussion which lasted from coffee in the morning, all through the dust of the Lombardy roads, to the round-bellied bottle of Chianti in the evening, and continued even in our dreams. He stood the test of this journey: he was a good companion and always remained so.

He battled valiantly with the hydra of psychotherapy and did his best to inculcate into his patients the same humanity for which he strove as an ideal.

He never actually made a name for himself in the scientific world, but shortly before his death he had the pleasure of finding a publisher for his book Tag und Nacht in which he set down many of his experiences in a form peculiarly his own.

Faithful to his convictions, he wrote it as he felt he had to write it, pandering to nobody’s prejudices.

His humanity and his sensitive psychological understanding were not gifts that dropped down from heaven, but the fruit of unending work on his own soul.

Not only relatives and friends stand mourning today by his bier, but countless people for whom he opened the treasure-house of the psyche.

They know what this means to them in a time of spiritual drought. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, Pages 759-762