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

Jung’s attention was always riveted to the long-term development of the soul, many souls, generations of souls. The great stream of life seemed to be his absorbing interest.

To illustrate: the question of the nationality of a young American woman came up years ago.

Her first appointments were spent putting him straight as to what country she came from.

For some reason she had to be English.

Many years later his persistent mistake made sense.

He was looking straight back into a predominance of English ancestry.

One had that impression over and over again.

He looked right down the long line of one’s ancestors, all the while making what could only be described as an exceedingly warm, personal, individual contact.

My first encounter with Jung was because of a very sick relative.

It was necessary to seek him out, since no one in the United States could reach the psychotic as well-or even at all.

At least, that was the verdict in San Francisco in 1930.

So there was nothing to do but make the long trek over to Zurich.

Soon it was dear that Jung could probably piece together the badly shattered psyche, but he had no time to go on with the therapy, which would have to be for life.

He already had more of this work than he could manage.

But because of the distress of the patient’s husband and the long, arduous trip, he spent hours, between lectures, at intermissions, after hours, to help in any way he could. Incidentally, although the husband was a rich man, there was no charge for this extra time.


It was necessary to phone Jung frequently.


It should be remembered, however, that he was then a well-known figure, controversial of course, but prominent.


In all the pressure of the situation and because of his manner it was easy to overlook the fact of his importance and call on him as one would any doctor, and he responded exactly as any doctor would have done.


In 1935 I had an opportunity to be in Zurich again and to be exposed to the great adulation of Jung which I had not noticed on the first visit.


It was not clear then as it is now why there was so much strong feeling.


In those days it was not generally known that a gifted analyst is bound to be surrounded by people with strong transferences and that there-would be a kind of cultism in the air.


Besides, his psychology seemed to favor the irrational.


So, being a very ‘modern’ person with a ‘clear, logical mind’ who was politically avant garde, I was inevitably critical and was more than happy to find fault. Jung’s writings also had borne an aura of authoritarianism that was irritating.


All this made it quite certain that I would not fall for his kind of psychology.


But, of course such certainty had its own weakness, and I finally got an appointment to see him.


This private encounter was rather disarming. ‘So you are in the soup, too?’ was the greeting.


It went on like that, with some very irritated outbursts interspersed, which were well deserved.


But they made me wonder whether such outbursts were appropriate in a doctor with so big a reputation.


Yet his deeper concern and sensitivity, combined with that streak of humor that loved American slang, his extraordinary insight, his deadly seriousness, and the human standard that was so high had their effect.


After these appointments Jung’s writings made tremendous sense.


It turned out also that these writings, his sayings, people’s reports, all had a curious way of ringing in one’s ears for a very, very long time.


There was so much in these thoughts, one simply could not pin down what the fascination was.


It is impossible to draw out all the meaning from Jung’s writings.


For every bit one grasps, more is revealed.


One reading leaves the reader with certain understanding, and the second reading is so different that it is necessary to check to be sure it is a second reading.


One can never quite possess the content.


Many people explain this phenomenon as a product of his brilliant intuitive mind.


It may go further; it may be due to his relation to the stream of life that is forever changing, developing, restating, renewing, progressing, regressing.


It may be Jung’s eternal liveliness that keeps his writings aloof from organization, from imprisonment, from the death that would come if they were entirely understood; or if he had been tempted to have the last word.


Jung’s great courage lay in his willingness to remain alone and lonely, and was perhaps understood best by those very close to him.


On the other hand, he never seemed to be unhappy when people ran off with his ideas, which they often did.


He seemed to like to see people function independently, and remained good friends with many who differed.



It would seem, for one who was always rather intellectual by nature, that Jung’s biggest contribution was his concern about morality.


His was a view that far exceeds what one usually expects, because it appeals to logical, unemotional thinking.


It was a view that was touched on in the beginning of the twentieth century by Lincoln Steffens, the famous American ‘muckraker’.


Steffens was preoccupied with the big crooks of that era.


He knew them personally and found many of them good for their word, honest, even reliable, but on the wrong side of the fence in society.


He liked to talk the men with yellow man with a white streak.


Jung, in his great concern over the place of evil in society, expressed that same principle later in the century psychologically.


No one saw better than he how often there is something good in what is bad; at times, the problem of good being good by comparison with what is bad; how also sometimes, in a subtle way, bad is good.  ~Jane Wheelwright, Contacts with Jung, Pages 226-228