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Joseph Henderson

1 Henderson

Contact with Jung: Essays on the influence of his work and personality

Since I first met Jung thirty-two years ago I have been successively a patient, a student, a colleague, and a friend, so it was inevitable that the main stimulus of his psychology came to me as much through his personal influence as through his psychological concepts.


I know that there were facets of his personality other than the ones I saw; for instance, Jung in the formative years of his great career and the side of himself he shared with his most intimate friends and family.


But when I heard of his death there arose before me a procession of images which seemed to represent the main impact of his character upon me as I knew him during the last three decades of his life, and these must be representative of his life as a whole.


The first memory of Jung which so impressed me was that of a philosopher or man of wisdom, although being in his early fifties he still had much of his youthful vigor and ambition.


Yet it was hard to realize how at an earlier time he had been so much more exclusively the psychologist and psychiatrist in the scientific sense.


For some time these two images, those of a philosopher and a scientist, fought for supremacy, and then they both vanished before a third image which seemed more inclusive, a sort of humanist in the old Renaissance style, in whom an authentic scientist and artist met in a man of philosophic temperament and training.


Above all, he was a humanist in action, not in theory.


This was so educationally stimulating to me that I was completely carried away by a fascination for such a man, but of course it was so impossible to imagine emulating him that the inflationary aspect of one’s admiration always ended in alarming feelings of inadequacy.


I was rescued from this by the appearance of another image which, for want of a better term, I must call the European Christian Protestant.


This I did not envy, and it rather provoked the same rebellious anti-father feelings from which I had expected Jung to cure me.


There in him I thought I detected a far more deeply moral critic than my own father had been.


But then a counteracting image came to redeem this baleful impression, a Swiss peasant in faded blue denim and sandals as one used to see him at Bollingen, drinking wine and throwing meat to his dogs with gargantuan generosity.


There was nothing gross or self-conscious about this; it was all an expression of true Homeric piety.


And so in the same man one always came back to the humanistic spirit and the cultivated love of life, which rescued religion from dogma and showed me how to withdraw the mistaken projections.


There was, however, another aspect of Jung’s character which refused to conform to European cultural patterns because it seemed to come totally from outside any culture.


It seemed to burst upon him from an absolutely foreign but absolutely comn:.. • • o 1 1 1″‘1 ‘ T 1 • 1 r’ • • , • S peumg prnmt1ve eve1 ot oemg. l t.l1lrlk ot 1t today tthanks to some of his own formulations) as the shaman which made Jung at times into a man of uncanny perception and frightening unpredictability of behavior.


This was the side which could never endure boredom and managed to keep him in hot water with someone all his life.


Yet one always ended by feeling the beneficent ultimate effect of this spiritual tornado.


I remember a party at his house in which we were held to a relentless game, with everyone sitting in a circle throwing a ball from one to the other to frustrate the unfortunate victim who had to stand in the center and try to intercept the ball.


This seemed to go on for hours with Jung as the evil genius who kept it going.


Various mishaps occurred during the evening.


I fell down and broke my glasses, a very proper Bostonian lady lost her pearls, and, just as the party seemed destined to fall to pieces by this shattering of personas, the unbounded pleasure of our host asserted itself, baptizing us all to harmony again in the blissful tonic of champagne and his own peculiar temperament.


This same shamanistic tendency, freed from any tricksterism, was an essential part of the psychological doctor who came to the rescue over and over again during analysis, placing the healing fingers of his intuition upon our symptoms.


He diagnosed and cured them frequently before we ever had a chance to describe them or even to complain of them.


On the other hand, he was a hard taskmaster, and we knew that if we did not work at healing our own psyches too, we would find ourselves shifted to some other analyst who would be willing to nurse us along while we awaited new developments or sat out our resistances.


This led to a kind of intolerance, or rather impatience, which was the cause of many resistances which I think were justified in those who came

to him improperly prepared.


Some very gifted people who might have made good adherents in this way went to other schools where they fared no better psychologically but managed to save face.


The man who could say, as he did once to me, ‘Give up all you have ever believed and perhaps you will learn something new’, had no sympathy with protecting people from the discomfort of self-doubt.


Time and Jung’s gradual withdrawal from active practice have altered this memory of him considerably and replaced it with the awareness that, because of his peculiar brand of truthfulness to his own natural reactions, he demonstrated better than any of the early analysts the fact that an analyst cannot be for his patient or student other than he himself is and that it would be the worst possible taste to try to disguise any part of himself.


When I have gone over all my memories of Jung’s personality and character, sifted and simplified the images they evoke, there is left a sense that he was not just a mixture of them all but something separate and whole.


Perhaps this is something he only truly became in his old age, but its imprint must have been upon him from the beginning.


It is the quality which has always given his work its greatest validity for me and can only be indicated as the happy marriage of tradition and innovation.


He was the most deeply rooted man I ever met, whether in his actual life or in his philosophic and religious commitment, yet he was also (and there

was no schism between the two sides) a nomadic adventurer into the mysterious world of unknown facts and fantasies, which made him a unique scientist of human life. ~Joseph L. Henderson, Contact with Jung, Pages 221-223