Our starting point is the lake which is a mirroring surface hiding the unconscious.
We come to a lake or a pond in almost every journey to the underworld.
There are many mediaeval examples of this, lakes and forests are both symbols for secret depths where unknown beings live.
Francesco Colonna, a monk of the 13th century, wrote Hypnerotomachia, which means the dreamlove-conflict; it is written in dream form and contains a descent into the underworld of the psyche.
Hypnerotomachia opens in the Black Forest and a famous example of the same theme is to be found in Dante’s Divine Comedy which also opens in a wood.
Animals appear in both but whereas the wolf leads the way in Hypnerotomachia, in the Divine Comedy Dante is afraid of the animals.
The animal which appears in our phantasy is a black snake, a sufficiently alarming sight but our patient is not afraid for she regards it as a “mere phantasy and therefore quite harmless”.
If she had remained an onlooker it would have been as if Dante had watched the animals in the wood remarking: “Oh, there are some animals walking about” in which case there would have been no Divine Comedy.
But at this point the patient fortunately remembered that I had told her she should be in the phantasies herself.
She had, it is true, a quite remarkable talent for keeping life away from herself, so now she looked away from the snake, out over the lake which was, appropriately, frozen.
The snake has the character of the underworld par excellence, it is chthonic, peculiarly of the earth, sinister and alarming.
Her psyche is pointing out to her that something which is exceedingly unpleasant to her can approach from her own unconscious.
We constantly forget how far we have got from our own inner law and this revenges itself upon us with a neurosis, or digestive disturbances, which should make clear to us that “we have made out the bill without the host”.
It is only possible to live as we should if we live according to our own nature.
But in these days we live by our brains alone and ignore the very definite laws of our body and the instinctive world.
We damage ourselves severely when we offend against these, and this is what our patient has done in her efforts to live rationally. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lecture, 7 June 1935.
Carl Jung across the web: