Carl Jung: Early Impressions 1875–1886
Early Impressions 1875–1886
Carl Gustav Jung was born in Kesswil, a small village on Lake Constance, on July 26, 1875.
Although Kesswil is in the Canton of Thurgau, Jung was born a citizen of Basel because his father was a citizen of that city.
The Rev. Paul Jung (1842–1896) was the son of Prof. Dr. Carl Gustav Jung (1795–1864).
This Carl Gustav was born at Mannheim (where his father was also a well-known doctor) and seems from early life to have been independent and original in his outlook.
He studied the natural sciences and medicine at Heidelberg and passed his final exams with considerable distinction, but he amused the whole of Heidelberg, while he was a student there, by keeping as a pet a small pig which he took on a lead for walks as if it were a dog.
When he was only twenty-four he went to Berlin as surgical assistant to a well-known oculist and as lecturer to the Royal Military Academy.
He seemed all set for a distinguished career in Germany and lived in Berlin, for part of the time at any rate, in the house of the publisher George Andreas Reimer, where he met an interesting circle of well-known people.
He also wrote at that time and some of his poems were published in the Teutsches Liederbuch.
But the students in Germany in Carl Gustav senior’s youth were full of political plans and were crying out for a “united Germany.”
August von Kotzebue (1761–1819), the German dramatist and politician, fell under their displeasure as a reactionary, and a theological student, Karl Ludwig Sand, murdered him in March, 1819.
Sand was executed, but as the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911) says: “The government made his crime an excuse for placing the universities under strict supervision.”
Many arrests were made, including C. G. Jung, who was known to have been friendly with Sand and was even unfortunate enough to possess a hammer for mineralogical research which Sand had given him.
(This harmless hammer was always alluded to in the official reports as an ax!)
He was kept in prison for a year, then released, but had to leave Prussia.
He went to Paris, where he was able to work as a surgeon and to continue his studies.
At twenty-eight, through the influence of Baron von Humboldt,d he was called to a professor’s chair in Basel.
He found the university there at a very low ebb and did a great deal toward bringing it up to its present high standard.
Above all, he was beloved in the town as a kindhearted and able doctor and even, interestingly enough, took a very early step toward assisting the mentally sick, founding the Institute of Good Hope for psychically disturbed children.
In a lecture, which was later published anonymously, he said:
In our age, when the attention of so many doctors is occupied with the psychic aspect of medical science to such an extent that special periodicals are being devoted to this subject, it would undoubtedly be greatly to the credit of any university to found an institution where it would be possible to study such cases objectively under the direction of a professor.
I am not thinking of the usual type of mental hospital where, for the most part, all the cases are incurable but of a hospital that would take patients of all kinds and endeavor to heal them by psychic methods.
This reveals amazing psychological insight, when one remembers that this Carl Gustav died in 1865, long before such pioneers as Janet and Freud had thrown light on the darkness and ignorance that prevailed in the psychiatric field of the nineteenth century.
Jung wrote of his grandfather:
He was a striking and strong personality. A great organizer, extremely active, brilliant, witty and with a ready command of language. I myself still swam in his wake. One constantly heard in Basel: “Now, Prof. Jung, he was somebody.”
His children also were tremendously impressed by him, but they did not only respect him, they also feared him for he was a somewhat tyrannical father.
For instance, after lunch he always had about a quarter of an hour’s sleep, during which his large family had to remain quiet as mice sitting at the luncheon table.
The later C. G. Jung’s father was the earlier Carl Gustav’s youngest son by his third marriage, to a daughter of an old Basel family, Frey. Dr. Franz Riklin, his great-grandson, told me that his exile from Germany was a great grief to him, particularly in his old age.
His grandfather, Sigmund Jung, who lived at the beginning of the eighteenth century and was Jung’s great-great-grandfather, is the first authenticated member of the Jung family tree.
He was a citizen of Mainz and the reason the family tree cannot be traced much farther back is due to the “fact that the municipal archives of Mainz were burned in the course of a siege during the War of the Spanish Succession.”
It was his son, Jung’s great-grandfather, who moved from Mainz to Mannheim.
But it is known that an evidently learned doctor of medicine and of law called Carl Jung lived in Mainz in the early seventeenth century.
Jung was always very much interested in this man, who was probably a direct ancestor, because he was a contemporary of two particularly interesting alchemists, Michael Maier and Gerardus Dorneus (Gerard Dorn), who were working in Frankfurt, quite close to Mainz.
Although it can probably never be ascertained for certain, it would be noteworthy—in view of Jung’s later great interest in alchemy—if his direct ancestor
had been connected with these two famous alchemists.
Jung thought that this early physician, Carl Jung, must at the very least have been familiar with the writings of Domeus, who was the best known of Paracelsus’s pupils, for the whole pharmacology of the day was still very much under the influence of Paracelsus.
To return to the nineteenth century, the Rev. Paul Jung had married Emilie Preiswerk, a girl from an old Basel family, and was vicar of Kesswil when Carl Gustav junior was born.
Emilie’s father, Samuel Preiswerk (1799-1871), was Antistes of Basel. (Jung used to explain this title to me by saying: “You would have called him the Bishop of Basel.”)
He was said to have had second sight and to have carried on lively conversations with the dead.
Jung said of this grandfather: “I did not know my maternal grandfather personally. [All Jung’s grandparents died before he was born.]
But, from everything I heard of him, his Old Testament name Samuel must have suited him very well.
He still believed that Hebrew was the language spoken in heaven and therefore devoted himself with the greatest enthusiasm to the study of the Hebrew language.
He was not only extremely learned but also poetically gifted.
He was, however, a rather peculiar and original man who always believed himself to be surrounded with ghosts.
My mother often told me how she had to sit behind him while he wrote his sermons because he could not bear ghosts to pass behind him while he was studying.
The presence of a living human being at his back frightened them away!”
Jung’s mother was the youngest child of his second marriage with a Würtemberg clergyman’s daughter, Augusta Faber.
Curiously enough, both Paul and Emilie were the youngest in families of thirteen children, although their son was an only son and for nine years an only child.
The rumor that the elder Carl Gustav Jung was a natural son of Goethe should be mentioned here.
Jung spoke of this to me more than once, but I did not receive the impression that he took the rumor seriously.
Rather, the existence of this singularly persistent idea—against all the external evidence—was exceedingly interesting to him in and for itself, taken in connection with the enormous impression that Faust had made upon him as a schoolboy, and with all his subsequent realizations about Goethe’s “main business,” as he himself always referred to Faust.
One could say that Basel was the headquarters of the clan on both sides of the family, but Jung was four years old before his parents moved back to the neighborhood of Basel.
He had no conscious recollections of Kesswil, for his family moved farther down the Rhine to the Fanse when he was only six months old.
But he vividly remembered being taken to visit friends on Lake Constance when he was still a very small child and the impression it made upon him.
I could not be dragged away from the water. The waves from the steamer washed up to the shore, the sun glistened on the water, and the sand under the water had been curled into little ridges by the waves. The lake stretched away and away into the distance. This expanse of water was an inconceivable pleasure to me, an incomparable splendor. At that time the idea became fixed in my mind that I must live near a lake; without water, I thought, nobody could live at all.
This may or may not have been the effect of being born on the shores of a large lake, but at all events the idea of living by a lake was so firmly fixed in his mind that he afterward not only built his house in Küsnacht by the lake but in 1922 he also bought land on the upper Lake of Zürich at Bollingen, where he built his beloved Tower even closer to the water.
The lake actually laps the walls of the courtyard at the Tower.
It is strange that Jung’s insistence that the child is not born a tabula rasa, and the accompanying realization of the existence of the collective unconscious, should have aroused such strong and persistent resistances.
After all, the Anglo-Saxon world has been accustomed for many decades to exactly the same idea in Wordsworth’s “Intimations of Immortality from
Recollections of Early Childhood.” I have never heard anyone object to the idea expressed in this poem that:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come.
In fact, most of those who reject the rest of Wordsworth as sentimental, moralistic, or banal will make an exception for this poem.
I can only suppose that “trailing clouds of glory” can be dismissed as poetic license, so that no one has felt the need to take it seriously.
Yet Wordsworth made it clear throughout the poem that he conceived the child’s soul as perceiving a very real aspect of the world which unfortunately later becomes invisible, although he personally could remember a time when he lived in this aspect of the world.
He even said, in a note, that he believed that “everyone,” if he could only look back, could “bear testimony” to this fact.
How few, if one comes to think of it, have carried even this advice of the poet into their daily lives.
Most people seem to prefer to identify with the “common day”:
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.
When one reads the first chapter of Jung’s Memories attentively, one realizes that his first recollections are not in themselves very different from those of the majority of serious children.
Even the first childhood dreams are remembered by a surprising number of adults.
The striking thing is the difference in attitude toward these childhood memories, a difference that manifested itself before Jung was four.
He was between three and four when he had the earliest dream he could remember. It was a dream that was not only to color his childhood but to preoccupy him during his whole life.
He dreamed that he suddenly discovered a “dark, rectangular, stone-lined hole in the ground” of a big meadow near his home.
There was a stone stairway leading down into it.
With considerable trepidation, he descended and found a sumptuous green curtain closing off an archway. He pushed it aside and found a large rectangular chamber, only dimly lighted.
A red carpet ran from the entrance to a platform on which there was a magnificent golden throne.
A huge thing, nearly touching the ceiling, was standing on this throne, which at first he thought was a tree trunk, but then he saw it was made of skin and naked flesh and that it ended in something very like a rounded, faceless head.
“On the very top of the head was a single eye, gazing motionlessly upward.”
There was an aura of brightness above this head and, paralyzed with terror, he had “the feeling that it might at any moment crawl off the throne like a worm and creep toward me.”
Then he heard his mother’s voice calling out: “Yes, just look at him. That is the man-eater!”
Still more terrified, he woke up and was afraid to go to sleep again for many nights for fear of having another similar dream.
This extraordinarily unchildlike dream anticipates the whole of Jung’s life for, as he often pointed out, the earliest remembered dream as a rule contains the pattern of the future fate and personality.
Indeed, Jung’s life was impregnated throughout by the creative principle, which is represented here as a concealed principle of nature striving toward the light of consciousness.
His fear that it would crawl after him anticipates what he afterward called the daimon of his creativity which haunted him all his life.
Nearly eighty years after this dream, he wrote in the “Retrospect” to Memories:
There was a daimon in me, and in the end its presence proved decisive. It overpowered me, and if I was at times ruthless it was because I was in the grip of this daimon. I could never stop at anything once attained. I had to hasten on to catch up with my vision. . . . I had to obey an inner law which was imposed on me and left me no freedom of choice.
Toward the end of his life, Jung realized that this dream was initiating him into the secrets of the earth.
It foretold a kind of burial in the earth, in the realm of darkness, where he had to pass many years in order that the greatest possible amount of light should be brought into the darkness.
He even said that this dream was the beginning of his intellectual life.
But already at the time, when he was barely four years old, he knew that he had dreamed of a subterranean God and always thought of it involuntarily whenever he heard Jesus praised too emphatically.
He realized very soon that this subterranean God was somehow connected with Jesus, was even his counterpart.
This probably happened because a certain doubt of Jesus had already been sown by his daily life in the Vicarage.
To give an example: every evening he was taught to say a prayer to the “Lord Jesus,” asking him to take his child to himself, to prevent Satan from devouring it.
That in itself was very comforting, and the child thought of Jesus as a “nice benevolent gentleman,” like the squire at the castle, always ready to be mindful of little children in the dark.
But the cemetery was very close to the Vicarage, and he found it most disturbing that people he was accustomed to see around the village suddenly disappeared.
At the same time a hole appeared in the ground, and he was told that the missing person was being “buried and that Lord Jesus had taken them to himself.
This analogy had the unfortunate effect of causing the child to distrust Jesus long before other children usually lose their childlike faith, but it also laid the foundation to Jung’s lifelong preoccupation with the paradoxical nature of God, which culminated over seventy years later in Answer to Job
Another event reinforced this very early distrust of Jesus.
He overheard a conversation between his father and a visiting colleague about the Jesuits, in which he gathered that Jesuits were something specially dangerous, even for his father.
He had no idea what a Jesuit was but immediately associated the word with Jesus.
A few days later, meeting a Catholic priest in his cassock,h he once again made the connection with the Jesuits and Jesus and fled in panic.
He could not remember afterward whether this occurred before or after his dream.
These very strong, highly emotional, early impressions had the result of fixing Jung’s interest on the eternal preoccupations of man to such an extent that, unlike most growing boys, he never forgot them.
As he grew older, his interest in this inner side of life increased and he was able, with one short exception when he was eleven or twelve, to do justice to it without neglecting the duties of his outer life.
Passing the most formative years of his life so close to the Rhine Falls undoubtedly had a considerable influence on Jung. Particularly when the river is full—as it often is, especially while the winter snow is melting in the mountains—it is very impressive.
Jung says, however, that all around the Falls “lay a danger zone.
People drowned and bodies were swept over the rocks.”
When he was about three the fishermen pulled out one of the corpses below the Falls and asked permission to put it in the Vicarage washhouse.
His mother sternly forbade him to go into the garden while it was there, but naturally, directly things had quieted down sufficiently for him to be unobserved, he slipped out.
He tells us that he saw blood and water trickling out below the door, but instead of being frightened, he found this just “extraordinarily interesting!”
Children brought up in the country, as Jung was, do start with a certain advantage over city children, in that they have every opportunity from an early age to face up to life as it is, to its dark side as well as its light.
Things did not change much in this respect when the family moved to KleinHüningen in 1879, for it was then a small village right in the country.
Since then—like most of the larger cities in Switzerland—Basel has grown so much larger that Klein-Hüningen has been more or less absorbed into it, but in Jung’s days—his father remained its vicar until his death in 1896—the town and village were still separated by a long country walk.
Nevertheless, the comparative nearness of Basel meant that the influence of the clan became much stronger in Jung’s life. In those days, long before the invention of motorcars, Laufen was still quite a journey from Basel and visiting relations must have been a comparative rarity.
But at Klein-Hüningen the families of both the Rev. Paul Jung and of his wife were close at hand.
This influence was above all theological; two brothers of Jung’s father were parsons, there were no fewer than six on his mother’s side, and the head of her family was pastor of St. Albans, Basel, all of whose sons became theologians.
It is true that it was much later before Jung first became consciously aware of the influence they were trying to exert on him, but as he said: “Children
react much less to what grown-ups say than to the imponderables in the surrounding atmosphere.”
From the beginning this atmosphere was full of preconceived opinions and also of secret doubts from the overwhelming theological influences in the Jung and Preiswerk clans, to say nothing as yet of the tragic fate in this respect that was lying in wait for his father.
Jung told me more than once that he could never have analyzed me nor understood my dreams had he not been a parson’s son himself, and probably it is my being a parson’s daughter that gives me any understanding of this aspect of Jung’s childhood and the “imponderables” in the atmosphere that surrounded it.
But there were other “imponderables” of a difficult nature still closer to Jung’s early childhood.
At Laufen there was already what he called “a temporary separation of my parents.”
His mother was away for several months, in a hospital in Basel, and “presumably her illness had something to do with the difficulty in the marriage.”
Her absence “deeply troubled” him and he
attributed the fact that he suffered for a time from a “general eczema” to this cause.
Things do not seem to have improved between his parents when they reached Klein-Hüningen; before long they were sleeping apart and Jung was sleeping in his father’s room.
I have seen many marriages of this kind among the clergymen I have known (that of my parents Jung called “conventionally right and psychologically all wrong”).
One of the most disturbing things for all clergymen who take their profession seriously, and for their growing families, is the attentive and critical eye which is turned by the congregation and acquaintances on everything they do and say.
Something different is generally expected of them, and it is difficult to feel accepted as an ordinary human being.
In fact, when I came to Zürich, I learned consciously for the first time that this was the reason for my early and strangely persistent feeling that I was somehow an outcast.
Jung told me that at school and in the village no one ever called him Carl Jung but always “parson’s Carl,” which was naturally disagreeable to him.
This is, I think, at bottom the result of Christianity being a religion it is impossible to live up to, because it does not allow enough room for the dark side of man or, for that matter, for the dark side of God either.
All practicing or even professing Christians suffer constantly from a bad conscience, because they feel they should be living a completely unattainable perfection.
They naïvely hope that clergymen do know how to do this, hence their expectations.
But, since such expectations will inevitably be disappointed, they console themselves with an unduly pleasurable sense of relief, even triumph, when they observe the shortcomings of the clergy and their immediate families.
I remember that once in a game of roundersi at a children’s party, I ran inside a stick entirely by mistake—the sun was in my eyes. Our host, a militant military man, literally howled with triumph: “That’s a nice thing, a Dean’s daughter cheating, see if I don’t tell your father!”
I still recall the feeling of utter despair that invaded me: he wanted to believe I had done it on purpose, and there was nothing I could do about it.
Several other children had done the same thing, yet he had merely mildly pointed out their mistakes or even overlooked them.
It is clear, with such surrounding expectations, that a particularly sharp eye is kept on the marriages of clergymen, that they are lived in the limelight so to speak.
Both partners usually do their utmost to live up to the ideal of marriage that is expected of them and this is a terrible strain.
Moreover, it is not only what is expected of them by other people but, far worse, what they expect of themselves.
Jung said that both his “parents made great efforts to live devout lives, with the result that there were angry scenes between them only too frequently.
These difficulties, understandably enough, later shattered my father’s faith.”
he said frankly:
“My parents’ marriage was not a happy one, but full of trials and difficulties and tests of patience. Both made the mistakes typical of many couples.”
It must be emphasized, however, that both seem to have been unusually valuable individuals.
One gets an exceedingly positive impression in reading Jung’s Memories and he always spoke of both—however much he criticized their mistakes—in terms that left no doubt as to his love and respect for them.
He said of his mother, for example: “My mother was a very good mother to me.
She had hearty animal warmth, cooked wonderfully, and was most companionable and pleasant.”
His father was indeed a tragic figure to him, although he did not realize this consciously until later, only thinking as a child that, whereas there was something unexpected, even alarming, about his mother, especially at night, his father was exceedingly reliable but unfortunately powerless.
When he was six or seven he began to suffer from a “pseudo croup” which he saw as “a psychogenic factor: the atmosphere of the house was beginning to be unbreathable.”
He did not attribute these “imponderables” solely to his parents’ marriage—although almost all psychologists agree that this is a decisive factor in the childhood of most children—but attributed a great deal to the growing religious doubts of his father.
The peculiar religious ideas that came to me even in my earliest childhood were spontaneous products which can be understood only as reactions to my parental environment and to the spirit of the age. The religious doubts to which my father was later to succumb naturally had to pass through a long period of incubation. Such a revolution of one’s world, and of the world in general, threw its shadows ahead, and the shadows were all the longer, the more desperately my father’s conscious mind resisted their power. It is not surprising that my father’s forebodings put him in a state of unrest, which then communicated itself to me.
Later he added:
Looking back, I now see how much my development as a child anticipated future events and paved the way for modes of adaptation to my father’s religious collapse as well as to the shattering revelation of the world as we see it today—a revelation which had not taken shape from one day to the next but had cast its shadows long in advance. Although there were alarming emanations from his mother at night, such as the “faintly luminous, indefinite figure” with a detachable head that he saw early in the Klein-Hüningen days coming from her room, he felt the “peculiar religious ideas” as emanating only from his father.
I never had the impression that these influences emanated from my mother, for she was somehow rooted in deep, invisible ground, though it never appeared to me as confidence in her Christian faith.
For me it was somehow connected with animals, trees, meadows, and running water, all of which contrasted most strangely with her Christian surface and her conventional assertions of faith.
This background corresponded so well to my own attitude that it caused me no uneasiness; on the contrary, it gave me a sense of security and the conviction that here was solid ground on which one could stand.
It never occurred to me how “pagan” this foundation was.
It also certainly did not occur to his mother either.
She was never consistently conscious of this instinctive foundation which was nevertheless the greatest asset that Jung had as a child, a fertile soil which made it possible for him to develop as he did.
Not all the members of the two clans were theologians.
Some were very deeply rooted in the soil and full of natural wisdom.
Very early in my time in Zürich, I received a positive impression of Jung’s uncles, for he very often quoted them or told stories about them that gave one the impression of a fund of natural wisdom and the feeling that they were exceedingly sound people.
These uncles certainly had more influence on him than the many theologians in the clan.
In the meantime, apart from the invisible “imponderables” in the situation, Jung grew up as a healthy country child, surrounded by the nature he loved all his life.
He went to the village school soon after he was six, as is the custom with all Swiss children.
This must have been a school of the good old style, built upon the idea of “spare the rod, spoil the child,” for I remember that in a seminar Jung once described his first lessons at that school.
The teacher put a letter or whatever he wanted to teach the children on the blackboard, then a whip lash was applied to their backs—swish—just to impress the lesson upon them!
I was very much struck by the fact that this treatment left no resentment whatever.
On the contrary, Jung seemed to think that it was the best aide mémoire in existence!
(He pointed out more than once that Zen masters often use such methods with their pupils.)
Before going to school, Jung had been a lonely child, but he did not mind that at all, for he played alone and in his own way.
He could not remember what he played while he was very small, only that he did not want to be disturbed and that he was deeply absorbed in these games
and hated anyone watching or judging him.
This is confirmed by his oldest friend, Albert Oeri, long editor of the Basler Nachrichten and a well-known member of the Nationalrat.
In a few youthful reminiscences he contributed to the Festschrift for Jung’s sixtieth birthday, Oeri wrote that his parents visited Jung’s parents while the Jungs were still at Laufen, and took him along, since he was the same age as Carl Jung and both sets of parents wanted them to be friends and play together.
“But,” said Oeri ruefully, “there was no question of that. Carl sat in the middle of the living room engrossed in a game and did not take the slightest notice of me.”
He asked. himself why he remembered this so vividly after more than half a century and said that in all his life (he was three or four) he had never met such “an asocial monster.”
Oeri was one of a large family, all of whom played or fought together in their large nursery; whereas Carl was an only child at the time, and had never had anything to do with other children.
Jung recalled that he liked going to school because, for one thing, he at last found the playmates he had lacked for so long.
But he soon discovered that this was not an unmixed blessing; he found that being with all these children “alienated me from myself.”
He was different at school from what he was at home, and although he evidently got on well with his schoolfellows, joined in their pranks and even invented others for them, he realized very soon that this made him feel uncomfortable.
“The influence of this wider world, which contained others beside my parents, seemed to me dubious if not altogether suspect and, in some obscure way, hostile.”
This reaction is by no means unusual in children who are introverts, as Jung much later called this type.
Although extraverted children usually enjoy the “influence of the outer world,” this is by no means the case with introverted children, who always shrink from it in one way or another.
Jung definitely reckoned himself an introvert and one can see this clearly in his childhood reaction to outer objects and people.
At the same time his love for nature, where “the golden sunlight filters through green leaves,” increased rapidly, but this contrasted with the world of shadows of which he had also become increasingly aware since his very early experiences at Laufen (his first remembered dream, Jesus “taking” the dead, the Jesuit, and so on).
He said of his early days at school: “It was as if I sensed a splitting of myself, and feared it.
My inner security was threatened.”
Soon after he went to the village school—when he was seven or eight—he began to
remember the games he played by himself. Building with bricks became a passion.
Like most boys of his age, he equally enjoyed destroying what he had built by “earthquakes.”
He also drew rapturously at this time, particularly pictures of battles of all kinds, and he even anticipated the Rorschach method by making blots in exercise books and then giving them fantastic interpretations.
He met the insecurity implanted in him by school in two ways.
Jung’s psychology was based throughout on his actual experience and a great deal of this experience came from his own childhood.
He said of one of his experiences: “When I was a child I performed the ritual just as I
have seen it done by the natives of Africa, they act first and do not know what they are doing.
Only long afterward do they reflect on what they have done.”
Of course, he did not yet know
what he was doing, but he was already living the psychology that later made him famous.
I realized soon after first getting to know him that, wonderful as his seminars and books were, the really convincing thing was Jung himself.
He was his own psychology and this fact was anticipated even in early childhood.
He wrote in the “Retrospect” to Memories that he did not know what started him off “perceiving the stream of life.
Probably the unconscious itself.
Or perhaps my early dreams. They determined my course from the beginning.
Knowledge of processes in the background early shaped my relationship to the world.
Basically that relationship was the same in my childhood as it is to this day.”
The first ritual he performed, when he felt this unpleasant feeling of being out of himself,
was to sit on a large stone on the slope below the old garden wall at Klein-Hüningen Vicarage.
He had “some secret relationship” with this stone and he would sit on it alone for hours and play an “imaginary game with it.”
He was sitting on the stone, which was plainly underneath him, yet
the stone could also be thinking: “I am lying here on this slope and he is sitting on top of me.”
He identified so completely with this stone—it was his special stone—that he became puzzled over the question of whether he was the boy or the stone.
He could never find an answer to this question, but his “uncertainty was accompanied by a feeling of curious and fascinating darkness.”
At this point in Memories Jung interpolated an experience which occurred thirty years later and which first adequately explained the matter of the boy and the stone to him.
He was already a practicing psychiatrist, married, with children and “a head full of ideas and plans,” but suddenly—as he revisited the Vicarage slope—his whole life in Zürich became remote and alien and he was again absorbed in the world of childhood.
Then he realized, as a psychological fact that must be reckoned with in daily life, that the world of childhood is the eternal world, whereas his life in Zürich belonged to the world of time.
Wordsworth recognized exactly the same thing and expressed it poetically, as vague evidence of the existence of immortality.
The latter is an idea that is easily digested, for most people prefer the idea of immortality to the idea of death as an end.
But Jung’s realization confronts every one of us with the task of somehow reconciling two worlds which exist within ourselves.
We are aware of one, the eternal, in childhood; later it fades in most people, who then become aware only of the external world of time; it can be a terrifying thought that something beyond it undoubtedly exists.
We begin to understand why so many people fanatically hope—against all the real evidence—that every child is born a tabula rasa.
To return to the child Jung and his stone.
The stone is infinitely more durable than the human being or any kind of animal life or vegetation.
Since the oldest tree is the merest infant compared to a stone, the latter has been seen as a symbol of eternity since olden days!
One can mention “the philosopher’s stone” of the alchemists, and Christ as the “Rock of Ages” or as the cornerstone.
When he puzzled over whether he was the boy sitting on the stone or the stone being sat upon, the child Jung was already unconsciously puzzling over what he called, nearly eighty years later, “the thorny problem of the relationship between eternal man” and the “earthly man in time and space.”
He even said that the decisive question for man is: “Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life.”
We shall see this “thorny problem” reappearing in many forms during the rest of his life.
The second way in which he met “this disunion in myself and uncertainty in the world at large” he discovered only when he was nine, nearly three years after first going to the village school.
It once again took the form of a symbol, and it can be called his first creative effort to meet the split between the two worlds, although at the time it naturally was “quite incomprehensible” to him.
Like all schoolchildren at that time, Jung had a yellow varnished pencil box with a lock, which contained a ruler in addition to the pencils and other objects carried around by the child.
He took this ruler and carefully carved a manikin at one end of it.
Then he sawed off the ruler and bedded it down comfortably in the pencil box.
The manikin had a “frock coat, top hat, and shiny black boots.”
He also provided it with a stone, a parallel to his own on the slope.
This stone had long been a treasure carried about in his pocket, an oblong smooth stone from the Rhine, which he had carefully painted to look as if it were “divided into an upper and lower half.”
He then hid the box on a beam in the attic of his home and felt quite safe about his secret, for no one ever went to the attic because of the worm-eaten and unsafe floorboards.
Now at last—when all this ritual was carefully performed—he felt secure, he lost the tormenting feeling of being at odds with himself.
Whenever he felt unhappy or in any way threatened, he would think of his carefully bedded down manikin with his stone, and he would feel comforted.
Occasionally, when he could do so unobserved, he visited his cache; at such times he always took a written paper with him to put into the pencil box to serve as the manikin’s library.
When telling of this in Memories, he could no longer remember what had been written on the papers.
One must be conscious of the sense in which Jung used the word “symbol” in order to understand why this ritual gave him at last such a sense of security.
The word is too often used to indicate a mere emblem, a sign or image to express a known fact, such as the winged wheel that the Swiss railroad men wear.
But Jung never used it in this sense; he meant it always to represent the best expression obtainable at the time for something that is essentially unknown.
The child, who made this manikin so carefully, had no idea what he was trying to express, but he did know that his very life might depend on keeping it an “inviolable secret.”
He had done all he could, and having made the tremendous effort of producing this symbol, he could be at peace.
He remembered and visited it for about a year, then forgot about it until he was thirty-five years old and doing the preliminary reading for his book
The Psychology of the Unconscious, revised many years later and republished as Symbols a/Transformation.
Then he realized it was one of those “little cloaked gods of the ancient world,” a Telesphoros (one who helps to a goal or to special efficiency), so often connected with Aesculapius.
This connection seems to me especially meaningful, because Jung never once thought as a schoolboy of becoming a doctor (which is in itself curious, since he heard so much of his Jung grandfather who, like his great-grandfather, was a well-known doctor), yet his unconscious was already bringing up an image related to Aesculapius when he was only nine years old.
In general, the dwarf gods of antiquity—best known as the Cabiri, who appear again in Goethe’s Faust—symbolize creative impulses; these impulses were to play a great role in Jung’s life, as his many books bear witness.
It was when Jung, through his reading, remembered this manikin and recognized it as a universal symbol that he first realized that “there are archaic psychic components which have entered the individual psyche without any direct line of tradition,” an idea that was to play such an enormous role in the further development of his psychology.
This manikin was a content which rose from the lowest, completely collective layers (see the diagram on page 17) and was practically uncolored by country, clan, or family, although the two latter layers made a certain contribution in that they inclined the child Jung to an unusually serious and religious attitude.
On the surface, indeed, he remained religious in the Christian sense, although he doubted from a very early age whether all the good and beautiful things were so certain as he was assured they were, for he never forgot the dark side that had impressed him so much, even before he was four.
Not that he seems to have made any direct connection between his fear of the dark side of Jesus (and all the rest of those very early alarming realizations) and the manikin, for he said: “The dream of the ithyphallic god was my first great secret; the manikin was the second.”
He said of this motif: “This possession of a secret had a very powerful formative influence on my character; I consider it the essential feature of my boyhood.”
And later, in “Retrospect,” he wrote: “It is important to have a secret, a premonition of things unknown.
It fills life with something impersonal, a numinosum.
A man who has never experienced that has missed something important. . . . The unexpected and the incredible belong in this world. Only then is life whole.
To me the world has from the beginning been infinite and ungraspable.”
Although at the time he did not recognize any association between his first uncanny realizations before he was four and the manikin, the symbolism shows how closely they were connected in the unconscious.
The manikin was dressed exactly like the “solemn men in long frock coats, unusually tall hats and shiny black boots,” who stood by the open graves in Laufen cemetery and had given him his first distrust of Jesus.
There is also a secret connection between the phallus of his first dream and the manikin, for the antique god in the kista (a receptacle for sacred objects in the antique mysteries)—with which Jung compared him—was sometimes represented by a human figure and sometimes by a phallus.
So that we definitely meet the same secret in the dream and the manikin, but in the latter the inhuman, terrifying phallus is replaced by a human figure, and has therefore become much more human and personal.
It was very fortunate that the child Jung made this tremendous effort to heal the split in himself, for while he still remembered and found comfort in the thought of the manikin and his stone, like all Swiss children whose parents want them to have a good education, he was taken away from the village school in his eleventh year and sent to the gymnasiumn in Basel, a far greater step into the wider world than the original step to the village school had been.
Before we consider the Basel years, we need a clearer idea of what kind of boy it was who went from a small country school to the different atmosphere of a large town gymnasium, where his companions also changed radically.
At Klein-Hüningen Jung’s father was the vicar, one of the most important and cultured men of the village, and his son, however little he may have liked it,
carried a certain prestige with him into the village school.
Jung was also always top of his class.
Most of his schoolfellows were the sons of parishioners of his father.
At his Basel school he learned for the first time how poor his parents were, and soon realized that his new companions almost all came from much richer homes, that their fathers, reckoned by the prevailing worldly standard, were much more important men than a village pastor.
This was reflected in their personal advantages, such as ample pocket money, good clothes and shoes, and being able to talk in familiar terms of the mountains and even of the sea, which were still in “the unattainable land of dreams” for the boy Jung.
He was an unusually serious boy who—even before he was four years old—allowed no sentimental wool to be pulled over his eyes, particularly in regard to religious matters.
He always took facts as he learned them comparing them with one another and drawing conclusions from these comparisons that faced him, at a very early age, with the opposites in human fate and nature.
This gave him an extraordinarily empirical image of life as it is.
Such realism was reinforced by the majority of his companions at the village school, for no one is more realistic or down to earth than the Swiss farmer and peasant.
He knew the parents of many of his schoolfellows well and was thus used from earliest youth to hearing a spade called a spade.
The insight thus gained into the background and character of the Swiss peasant benefited Jung all his life.
He was on excellent terms with the inhabitants of the small village of Bollingen and with the surrounding farmers.
Only recently a middle-aged farmer (unprovoked by any question) mentioned how well Jung had understood the children of Bollingen.
He remembered vividly, for instance, how Professor Jung used to hide Easter eggs all along the lake on his ground and then turn the children loose to find them.
In fact, just as Jung in his own boyhood in Basel had been accustomed to hear of his grandfather, “Now Professor Jung, he was somebody,” so now one can hear the same remark made of the grandson any day of the week in the Bollingen neighborhood. this has nothing to do with his fame (I doubt if most of the peasants even realize that he is famous) but simply with his personality.
Local people talked extraordinarily freely to Jung and discussed things with him that they would never mention to other outsiders and it was the same wherever he went among the mountain and country population of Switzerland.
It is striking how often his books are to be found in such homes, and not just as ornaments, for they have clearly been read again and again.
These people, still in touch with the soil, seem to have an instinctive understanding that has too often been lost, for one usually hears that Jung’s books are difficult.
When such simple people from all over Switzerland came—as they often did—to Jung to ask questions about what they could not understand, he soon realized that they had often understood far more of the essential meaning of his books than is usually the case in academic circles.
He was so impressed with how many such people there were and with their sincere search that, when he was over eighty, he asked a few of his pupils, particularly Marie-Louise von Franz, who had also received her first five years of education at a Swiss village school, to found a reading circle for them, where they could bring their questions twice a month.
This circle is still functioning and is refreshingly sincere and unpretentious.
It was also through Jung’s early contact with peasants that he learned to know and respect such products of nature as wood and stone.
Until just before his death he cut all his own firewood at Bollingen, and one seldom saw him happier and more relaxed than when he was engaged in such tasks.
One still hears him spoken of with the greatest respect as a stonemason.
The way he understood and handled the individual stone particularly roused the admiration of every expert stonemason.
But it was not only in the future that Jung benefited from his early experience of the realism of the Swiss peasant.
As a boy it was already a very helpful influence in avoiding the illusions that polite society so often seems to favor.
His reactions when he was nine years old to his sister’s birth give us some idea of how this operated in his daily life.
This event was a complete surprise to him, for although, like most children brought up in close touch with nature and animals, he had learned the facts of life easily and early, he had as yet noticed nothing to make him suspect that a baby was on the way.
This seems odd at first sight, in such an observant boy, but it is really a typically masculine reaction.
The male is mainly concerned with discrimination and facts, not primarily with relationship.
A girl would probably have noticed that her mother was preoccupied and not so concerned with her as usual, but the interest of a healthy masculine boy is so occupied with his own concerns that he notices only really inescapable disturbances in relationship, such as his mother being away in the hospital, unable to cook, or something of that kind.
But in those days practically all children were born at home and—though he afterward remembered that she had lain down oftener than usual—in between she most probably discharged all her household duties as usual until the last moment.
However this may have been, the arrival of his sister took Jung entirely by surprise.
His parents, who were conventional on the surface, told him the usual myth of the stork; he rejected it at once, for the peasants had never pretended any such fairy story, and anyway, how could a stork manage to carry a calf?
He saw at once, however, that his parents were determined not to tell him exactly how that baby arrived and, as usual, he kept his thoughts to himself.
Though he afterward learned to have a great respect for his sister’s character, she had come too late for any common childhood life between them, and they both grew up more or less as if each was an only child.
On the surface Jung’s mother made great efforts to improve her son’s manners and to make him a well-brought-up, gentlemanly little boy, but her heart was not in these efforts.
Her instinctive foundation was realistic and far more concerned with his growing up a healthy, manly boy, able to use his fists when necessary and to hold his own in every way.
She was always giving this secret wish away to her son, although their conversation was mainly concerned with his manners and appearance, and he was often unfavorably compared with a few more elegant children of some of their relations and friends.
I remember his once telling me that when a particularly prinked-up little girl cousin was coming to tea his mother’s injunctions were especially exact as to how nicely he must behave.
Anything but pleased to see her, he nevertheless politely took her into the garden and intended to do his best to amuse her.
But the garden had just been manured, and her attention could not be recalled from the smell and substance of the manure.
He was then greatly amazed and even shocked to see her eat some of it with evident relish.
He later told his mother triumphantly what his to-be-copied cousin had done, and for once she openly admitted that a child could be too well brought up.
The cousin had just followed the principle of a dog who is kept in too unnatural and human a way; such a dog will usually roll in every horror he can find, as a compensation for his unnatural life.
Such occasional satisfactory admissions on his mother’s part and, still more, the things she murmured under her breath—which he soon learned were unconscious and could not be discussed—made a satisfactory relationship between mother and son.
On the surface he attended just enough to her constant admonitions concerning his appearance and manners, and in essentials—although he soon learned that though speech might be silver, silence was certainly gold—he really always felt free, even encouraged, to be himself.
Thus he was, from all accounts, an exceedingly natural child.
I remember when I first saw some of his own children, the thing that struck me most forcibly was that they were the most natural young people I had ever seen.
Although Jung grew up in this realistic milieu, in the Swiss village, it was by no means a materialistic environment.
Quite apart from the emphasis on religion in his family and clan, he met with the certainty of the Swiss peasant concerning “events which overstepped the limited categories of space, time, and causality.
Animals were known to sense beforehand storms and earthquakes.
There were dreams which foresaw the death of certain persons, clocks which stopped at the moment of death, glasses which shattered at the critical moment.
All these things had been taken for granted in the world of my childhood.”
It was not until much later that Jung realized how unknown all this aspect of life was to the urban population of a town like Basel.
By the time he left the village school, it had never occurred to him to doubt the empirical existence of irrational facts that were in no way bound by the “limited categories of space, time, and causality.”
He could therefore draw unlimited satisfaction and a complete sense of security from the existence of his carefully bedded down manikin in the attic, for there had been little or nothing in his village life to awake any doubt as to the efficacy of such symbols.
Although as a small child Jung’s health seems to have been somewhat uncertain, it was not long before his natural robustness of constitution asserted itself and he began to enjoy the excellent health which characterized most of his life.
He also became unusually strong.
He told me that this was a great help to him all his school days for, being physically stronger than all the other boys in his class, he could always count on being let alone and winning their respect when it came to a fight of any kind.
Although he went for many years first to the gymnasium and then to the university in Basel, he remained resident in Klein-Hüningen.
This not only gave him a long country walk at least twice a day, but it also left his essential roots undisturbed.
Therefore, although his image of the social world and the importance of his parents in it undoubtedly underwent a severe shock in his new school, he proved exceptionally well prepared in all essentials to meet whatever he found.
One could say it was his first experience of one of the later cornerstones of his psychology: it is the individual that counts and not his outer circumstances. ~Barbara Hannah, Jung: His Life and His Work, Page 17-30