THE IMPRESS OF DR. JUNG ON MY PROFESSION by Henry R. Zimmer
The first teaching which I personally received from Professor Jung, when I first met him at Zurich in 1932, was not an oral one nor was it written.
I was taught by the pictorial script of a mere gesture after the famous manner of the masters of Zen Buddhism, who prefer to teach without words by mere gestures and attitudes.
In this case it was a gesture of both his hands and in one of them he held a bottle of gin.
You remember how the outstanding doctrine of Zen Buddhism came into existence.
Once, in an assembly of monks, the Buddha took a lotus flower and, lifting it above his head, showed it to his pupils.
One among them grasped the meaning of this gesture, that it contained the whole essence of the transcendental wisdom on reality.
He smiled at the Buddha and the Enlightened smiled back at him.
That was the whole teaching and that is how Zen Buddhism came into being, quite unnoticed, to be handed down in this way for ages.
The Zurich lake has no lotus flowers and I have never seen Dr. Jung waving flowers in his hands.
He taught me by pouring a generous drop of gin into a glass of lemon-squash I had in my hand.
We were standing together at the buffet in the Zurich club, after I had my first lecture in his presence on Hindu yoga psychology.
I was rather excited about this privilege to meet the man who after my opinion knew more about the human psyche than other men alive.
So I was eager to get his criticism and asked him naively what was his opinion about the Hindu idea of the transcendental Self, in-dwelling man, underlying his conscious personality as well as the vast depth of the unconscious including the archetypes.
But he, without so much as disclosing his lips, while from the bottle in his right hand he poured the gin, with the forefinger of his left persistently pointed to the rising level of the liquid in the glass, until I hastily said, “Stop, stop, thank you.”
That was the gentle and inspiring indirect way of the Zen master to make me say “stop, stop” to my own talking.
It implied his advice to come down from the lofty level of my question to more earthbound facts and enjoyments, to abandon the soaring speculative flight to transcendental spheres which can’t be reached by mere words or abstract conceptions.
I found my way to Dr. Jung neither as a doctor nor as a patient, but as did Richard Wilhelm, the eminent interpreter of Chinese wisdom: as an Oriental scholar interested in Hindu symbolism, mythology, and psychology of yoga.
Years before I met him, when first I delved into his inspiring work on symbols and transformations of libido, I felt that Dr. Jung in his solitary way knew more about mythology than most of us.
Since my early studies in Sanskrit philology I have been attracted by the spectacular riches of Hindu tradition in religion, mythology, and philosophy and had been merged into their breathtaking sphere.
I had tried to decipher the pictorial script of Hindu idols through their function of guiding the soul in rituals and yoga practice.
For years I had translated Hindu myths for my own sake, without publishing them, and tried to decipher their hidden script offered by faithful tradition, enhanced by glowing colors and teeming with exciting details.
What struck me in my lonely delights was the fact that Indian philology at large rather turned the back on this field, looking for editions and emendations of texts, for inscriptions and historical details.
Mythology, in as far it was cared for, was dealt with in a purely positivistic unimaginative way with no sense for its secret meaning.
In plunging into the deep sea of mythology full of monsters and marvels, one is shown a lot in roaming through the depth of the waters,
but one is not taught very much explicitly about the very meaning of the features one is privileged to watch in perusing the old tradition.
One has to use one’s intuition in deciphering these dreams of the collective genius of a great civilization.
In fact, Hindu mythical tradition, instead of explaining its amazing features to the understanding, unfolds them to the pious intuition of the Hindu masses; it impresses their imagination and guides their souls by an immediate impact on the unconscious which is stirred to correspond to the dreamlike features and events of the mythological tales as they evolve in being told.
There are many keys to unlock the mysteries of symbolism, but for each period seldom more than one or two are available—if any at all.
In reading Dr. Jung’s writings I felt this man had found a new one, fit for our own period.
By the analysis of dreams he had got down to the very core of the inner depth, from which at all times the visions and images of mythology, the pictorial script of its figures and epics, have welled up.
He had descended to their source in the deeper layers of the human psyche which have remained relatively unaltered through the changes of civilization and environment affecting the surface of man’s conscious behavior.
I felt it was a master key, unlocking many treasures—in fact, the whole range of variegated mythology and ethnology with rituals and institutions, customs and superstitions of peoples bygone and present.
Here, I felt, a new sort of collaboration between modern psychology on the one hand, and Oriental philology and ethnology on the other
hand, had been inaugurated, and I was delighted by the privilege to join in.
I have been warned and rebuked over and again by friends and colleagues not to make so much of Dr. Jung’s teachings, not to overrate
Looking, however, on these eminent colleagues who advised me, and watching the results of their dealings with the inspiring though bewildering messages of the Hindu genius, sometimes they gave me the impression of being cool hens hatching indefinitely golden eggs.
Before meeting Dr. Jung I had come across another solitary master who in his way knew how to deal with mythology, a Swiss too, Johann
Jacob Bachofen, who started from ancient Roman Law and the symbolism of Roman burial rites and tombs to decipher the pictorial script of
Greek, Roman, and Oriental mythology.
He is the author of a famous book on the Maternal Order—Das Mutterrecht—written before the dawn of modern ethnology.
With him I learned to read mythology as expressing in its symbols the rise and decline of social and religious orders.
It proved to be a most inspiring lesson for interpreting Hindu mythological tradition as mirroring the conflicts and triumphs of creeds and social and religious features through the rise and vanishing of divinities, through the ever renewed battles between gods and demons, through the love affairs and strife among its main figures.
Bachofen, however, was dead, and the major task to decipher mythology as the everlasting romance of the soul, as le drame interieur, as the play staged in the playhouse of the psyche—this task was left for Dr. Jung.
In him, I felt, I met the master magician alive, whom I had met in so many mythical tales, playing a decisive part, but whom I never hoped
to encounter in flesh.
When I first met him and watched him over a weekend I spent in his house, at his table and in his garden, in his boat on the lake and in meeting people, he struck me as the most accomplished embodiment of the big medicine man, of the perfect wizard, the master of Zen initiations.
I had never imagined to see his like.
I realized the unique chance to be privileged to offer him the results of my research, to read to him my decipherings of the pictorial script of the Hindu genius by which I was spellbound.
In fact, so I had done before without knowing.
Six years before I met him, in 1926,1 had published my first book which, dealing with Hindu art, was the first to pay attention to mandalas and similar drawings and to point out that Hindu idols would be interpreted on their lines.
I Quite unconsciously I had hit upon a thing which had preoccupied Dr. Jung since many years, ever since he inaugurated the interpretation of the drawings from the unconscious and, by enjoining his patients to draw their visions, had invented this most important branch of psychoanalysis, which in its turn offers so striking a material to read the symbolism offered by ethnology and the history of religions.
In meeting Dr. Jung I felt I was privileged to [encounter] an incomparable teacher, who taught by listening, and who inspired me by taking
interest in my work.
In the meetings of his clubs and in his private conversations I felt a happy union was about to be accomplished between different lines of research which were bound to merge since they are centered around a common topic, the human soul and its various expressions in the history of mythology and in the conflicts of modern life.
The animal, I have been told, which constitutes the totemic symbol of Dr. Jung’s personality is the bear.
The bear, this huge and strong animal, nimbly and quietly rambling through the wild forest, hankering after the sweet honey which the diligent bees have stored in the hollows of trees.
He takes it out of their hives, as if it were meant for him, swallows it, relishes it, and walks on.
Likewise does Dr. Jung with the various gifts we may offer him in the way of dreams, tales, and mythologies.
That is one of the most convincing and enlightening attitudes of his: when you offer him something he likes, he takes it as a matter of course.
You will get it back, somehow and unawares, transformed and enhanced, maybe while you watch him talking to others, or walking, or enjoying his Chateauneuf du Pape, or carving the roast beef for his guests.
The most essential among the lessens he bestows are imparted without much talking, by his mere attitudes and behavings.
Some slight remark, now and then, sheds a flash of light on what is obvious for the intuition, but might pass by unnoticed by mere rational understanding.
In this way Dr. Jung completely behaves like a Zen master.
He knows one cannot teach very much to anybody what he is not yet able to grasp by himself.
He watches you and leaves you to your own way, and he guides you, as far as possible, by silently and involuntarily exhibiting his own way.
Thus he is just behaving like Nature herself which constantly unfolds her eternal secret wisdom by the pictorial script of clouds and sunshine, of the cycle of the seasons and all other features of its vast realm.
The Chinese followers of Taoism know how to make sense of this continuous revelation, by conforming to it.
In the same way the wisdom of life is taught by Dr. Jung continuously through the way in which he deals with persons, things, and situations which are at hand.
We need not go far in order to reach the threshold of initiations.
In fact it is everywhere.
We carry it inside ourselves and may behold it in every object.
The gift, however, which is bestowed on us, in crossing this threshold, consists in new means of understanding things which seemingly are far off or enwrapped in mysterious symbols.
The intuitive art of deciphering the hidden script in-dwelling things and traditions is the very boon which Analytical Psychology and its Master bestow on us and our professions.
In this way Dr. Jung’s teachings have opened a new era of how to understand and enjoy the rich, everlasting tradition of the mythology of the human soul and how to put it to use in modern therapy. ~Heinrich Zimmer, The Impress of Dr. Jung in my Profession, Page 2-6