Dreams and Visions of St. Niklaus Van Der Flue by Marie-Louise Von Franz
Lecture 9 Dreams and Visions of Niklaus Van Der Flue
Jung Institute July 10, 1957.
Last time we left off in the middle of the vision in which St. Niklaus sees first the Father in a white robe then God the Mother, robe and also in a white robe, both of them thank him for what he has done for their Son and then suddenly St. Niklaus
notices that he is sitting beside Christ, who also thanks him for what he has done, and he discovers that he is wearing exactly the same garment as Christ Himself, namely a white robe sprinkled with red, probably with blood.
There is also a further invisible figure, the Holy Ghost, the intermediary, for he asks first God the Father to thank Niklaus and then introduces him to God the Mother, thus making the connection between these four figures.
So we have the heavenly quaternity of Father, Mother and Son and the fourth would be St. Niklaus who is integrated to the divine quaternity.
With the fourth element, man enters the quaternity and the Holy Ghost functions as
the quinta essentia, the spirit of one-ness which makes the four one.
This role of the Holy Ghost is, in accordance with tradition, the Paraclete, and people
filled with the Holy Ghost, according to the Bible, will do even greater things than Christ, so that you could say that the Holy Ghost is the instrument by which man assimilates even further the Christ-figure and is so able to enlighten other individuals so that they become -parallel figures to Christ.
This would be even orthodox Christian teaching.
Through suffering the inner opposites and through his tremendous effort towards genuine personal religious experiences, we can say that St. Niklaus has suffered crucifixion.
The process of individuation has become so real to him that he has been torn by the opposites and therefore wore red and white like Christ, the colors of the alchemical opposites.
The last stages of the philosopher’s stone are the albedo, whiteness, followed by the rubedo, redness, and the heavenly marriage is represented as the coming together of red and white, and this same symbolism is expressed in the red and white garments of Christ and St. Niklaus.
Through suffering and going through the process of individuation Niklaus becomes a
twin brother of Christ, thus fulfilling the role of the philosopher’s stone which was
conceived by the alchemist’
s as an analogy to a twin brother of Christ. In Psychology and Alchemy (German version pp. 480-483, 1944 ed., and pp. 339-341 English translation) in the chapter on the relationship between the symbol of the philosopher’s stone and the symbolism of Christ, Jung says: “The alchemists never thought of identifying themselves with Christ; on the contrary, it is the coveted substance, the lapis that alchemy likens to Christ.
It is not really a question of identification at all, butof the hermeneutic sicut “as” or “like unto” which characterizes the analogy.
For medieval man, however, analogy was not so much a logical figure as a secret identity…. Without knowing it, the alchemist carries the idea of the imitatio Christi a step further and reaches the conclusion we mentioned previously, namely that complete assimilation to the Redeemer would, enable him, the assimilated, to continue the work of redemption in the depths of his own psyche.
But this conclusion is unconscious….” (Namely, by pushing the imitation of Christ as far as possible so that one reaches a certain state of analogy with him, then one would also have the gift of redemption of others.) ”
….The artifex himself does not correspond to Christ; rather he sees this correspondence to the Redeemer in his wonderful stone.”
(You see, he does not think, I am the brother of Christ because I push his redemption further, but that his stone is something of the kind.) ”
From this point of view, alchemy seems like a continuation of Christian mysticism carried on in the subterranean darkness of the unconscious – indeed some mystics pressed the materialization of the Christ figure even to the appearance of the stigmata.”
(You can say that Christian mysticism has not gone as far as it could have done, the alchemists went further on this road. Christian mysticism with its phenomenon of stigmatization, gave more the appearance of identity with Christ.)
“Had the alchemist succeeded in forming any concrete idea of his unconscious contents, he would have been obliged to recognize that he had taken the place of Christ – or – to be more exact, that he, regarded not as Ego but as Self, had taken over the work of redeeming not man but God. He would then have had to recognize not only himself as analogous to Christ, but Christ as a symbol of the Self. This tremendous conclusion failed to dawn on the medieval mind.”
The first part of this is clear, namely if the human being lives the imitation of Christ to its utmost, or even a step further, then he becomes identified with Christ, he is an analogy, but not as the Ego, only as himself in his greater totality, for as the analogy of Christ he can perform the works of Christ. The work of Christ is to redeem man, but the further step is to redeem God.
That is also the difference between the figure of Christ, and the philosophers stone. In the Christian of redemption Christ comes to redeem man, what happens to the creature, the trees and animals, and the stones, is left vague.
The alchemist said that his mystical aim was not to find redemption for himself, he was interested in redeeming what he thought was the divine essence in matter, so he tried to redeem God, so to speak, to redeem the divine essence in matter and the divine spark in creation.
If we make an analogy with our modern attempt to come to terms with the unconscious, one is not interested oneself in one’s unconscious in hope of feeling better or getting an easier life – an egotistical idea – but one goes into analysis with the idea of getting rid of certain symptoms.
But after a while, if this stage is overcome, there comes a turning point in the process individuation where one begins to be interested in it for itself, one no longer asks how can I get a dream to help me to feel better but, what is the secret hidden meaning of the unconscious and what does it want me to do?
And then you become the servant of a power in the unconscious which, subjectively looked at, is the super-personal, and the process of individuation begins to be a service, the work of serving the greater thing within, and no longer asking does this bring me suffering or happiness, but how can I helptowards realization of this thing that is deeper than me?
The task is no longer the redemption of the Ego, or man, or some sociological helpfulness, this is not denied, but it goes a step further for ultimately, the only really interesting thing is to serve as a process of individuation.
This is anticipated by certain mystics who from doing good deeds and good works, progressed to the condition of becoming the absolute servants of the divine centre, no matter what their own situation, or what it implied in suffering.
The same idea was unconsciously realized in alchemy, for the alchemists were searching on the same lines, but with them it did not come quite to consciousness so that they only expressed it symbolically.
They were probably hindered by certain Christian prejudices, not realizing that they themselves were attempting to push Christian mysticism beyond its former limits.
In the last vision of St. Niklaus the same idea is expressed, namely that by really living without compromise the burden of his own inner process of individuation and taking upon himself all the suffering, without realizing it, he had become an analogy with the figure of Christ and a redeemer of God.
This has never been emphasized by the theologians, it has been skipped.
But if you have read Answer to Job you may remember that Jung tries to point out that God’s decision to become man and suffer crucifixion is ultimately due to the fact that God Himself suffers from His own darkness.
The official version is that God had to become man to redeem us, so the sins were ours, and God the generous figure who became man to redeem us from them.
But if we realize that man cannot carry the load of the divine shadow and that therefore a great part of man’
s sinfulness is not his doing but is forced upon him through the shadow of God, you can say that if God decides to become man and be crucified He accepts the opposites within Himself and accepts the suffering of His shadow, redeeming Himself and paying for His own opposites, more than for the sins of man.
Becoming Christ-like is a divine development by which St. Niklaus tries to redeem himself from being split.
Every man who takes upon himself the same problem of the opposites, though on a small scale, becomes, as it were, the realization of a process which really goes on within the image of God Himself.
That St. Niklaus had to have this vision shows that he had not realized this.
If we ask ourselves in what frame of mind a person has to be to have such a vision, I could make a guess, though I cannot prove it.
As we know that he was depressed at this time, I would say that the frame of mind would be that he took his suffering too personally, that he tried to the right thing and did not understand why he was doing it and that he was lost in the narrow considerations of this world and did not quite understand what was going on in the dark background of his own soul.
He did not at that time understand his task and that what was hidden to him, what was happening, that he was becoming Christ-like.
He was drawn into the process of becoming an analogy of Christ.
Such a person must be someone deeply impressed by his own shadow and who, being depressed by this painful realization, does not understand the suffering from the shadow in a greater connection.
Being troubled as he was by what seemed to be a conscious conflict, i.e. leaving the family and how he could best serve God, he did not realize what the deeper root of his suffering and restlessness and unhappiness meant and therefore the unconscious gave him this vision to show him that by suffering this conflict he had become assimilated with Christ.
Thus every time someone goes through this process of individuation it means that God partially becomes man in him, every process of individuation is a process of incarnation of the Divinity, if you take it in its projected mirrored form.
In his book Answer to Job Jung says that the vision of St. John in the Apocalypse anticipated the second part of the conflict of the fish Aion, which began about the year 1,000 A.D. and lasted up to our time.
In the figure of Christ, he says, only the light side of God became man for Christ was born and begotten without sin.
Great care was taken that He became man without touching His darkness and only the light side of God incarnated, this might have been with the purpose of creating a solid basis for a further incarnation. In St. John’
s vision the idea is that God would once more incarnate and this time with his dark side as well as his light side, namely in the child of the woman who fled into the desert.
In the vision of St. Niklaus you see that he is chosen to become one of the vessels of a further incarnation of God.
The fact that the same vision the Virgin Mary is represented on a higher level than the dogma of that time, as the mother goddess beside God, and St. Niklaus is represented as a twin brother of Christ, is closely connected.
The Virgin Mary as a human being has always been represented by the Christian theologians by two other figures in the Bible.
In the Wisdom of Solomon there is the female figure of the Wisdom of God who was always with him, a divine being who was with God before creation.
Theologians have artfully identified this figure with Christ, and thereby skipped the fact that it is a feminine figure and they have thus eliminated the essential feature.
Other theologians have identified the Sophia figure with the Virgin Mary.
After the death and Assumption of the Virgin Mary there is still another figure in the Bible for the Apocalypse makes mention of a woman with a crown of stars that gives birth to a new savior.
This, the theologians affirmed, must again be the Wisdom of God, or again the Virgin Mary, because they did not know what else to say.
If you accept Jung’ s interpretation in Answer to Job you can say that this poor post Marianic figure of Sophia would be the anima figure which carries the process of a further incarnation of God in man, the process of individuation for each male human being.
It is interesting that St. Niklaus who suffered this process was so hit by the problem and speculated a great deal about the figure of the Wisdom of God with which a further vision of his is concerned.
He contended that the Virgin Mary should be recognized as divine and a super-personal figure and he identified her with the personification of the Wisdom of God.
He also believed in the Immaculate Conception which was not a part of the dogma of his time but was accepted later.
But St. Niklaus anticipating the further development of the problem, believed in it, showing that his concern with the figure of the Virgin Mary was linked with the tendency to bring forth more the feminine and psychic element among the figures of the divinity, to include more of the substance of man in it.
The Virgin Mary, an ordinary human being, has now ascended to heaven, this time in an incarnation of the divinity; a female, the inferior figure, has been accepted in the heavenly world, which demonstrates the compensatory unconscious tendency of the time to try to alter the one-sided spiritual realization of the patriarchal religious system which does not allow enough reality for the world of Eros and the ordinary man carrying the process of individuation.
The fact that the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Niklaus in an apple tree shows a further element, namely the greater inclusion of the life of Nature, another point lacking in the Christian religion, namely the acceptance of Nature in its beauty and natural features.
The official Christian symbol is a dead man hanging on a dead tree, and St. Niklaus has a living woman in a blossoming tree – the whole difference of the unconscious idea is thus expressed.
The symbol of God as a dead man hanging on dead wood expresses the idea that totality, as portrayed in crucifixion, can only be realized after death through complete mortification of the human being.
The living woman would portray the process of individuation in this life and in complete accordance with Nature, as a process of living growth and in the blossoming of the tree.
All the previous visions of St. Niklaus occurred before his retreat to the Ranft.
Afterwards he became very silent about his inner life.
According to his visitors, he was sometimes gay and happy and at others sad and introverted; much must have happened to him to which, in his peasant reserve, he never referred.
Also, after his retreat, he became such a famous person surrounded by many people.
An unknown person can afford to say more about himself, but after his retreat St. Niklaus was so surrounded by public attention that he had to he more careful, particularly as he was checked up on by malignant theologians who did their best to catch him out.
The only vision we know of after his retreat was one he had in the years between
1474 and 1478, which would be about 13 or 14 years before his death, which occurred
in 1487, when he was 70 years old.
So he must have been about 56 or 57 when he had the vision.
Heinrich Wolflin reports that St. Niklaus had a vision after which everyone who saw him was terrified when they looked at him.
He had had such a shock himself that people turned away from him in terror after it.
When he was asked why this was he said that he had seen in a vision a penetrating light which represented a human face and that at sight of it he had feared his heart would break into little pieces and he was so overwhelmed that he had turned his face away and thrown himself down on the ground and because of what he had seen his face had become terrifying to other people.
Another biographer, a little less reliable, the French humanist Karl Bovillus, who had also visited St. Niklaus and had had conversations with him, describes the same vision and says that there appeared to St. Niklaus on a clear, starry night, a human face bearing a dreadful expression both angry and menacing.
He seems to have had the vision during the night and the two reports agree that he saw the face of God which terrified him so much that he nearly lost his reason.
Psychologically, the symbol of his heart breaking into pieces would mean schizophrenia, that is, that he could not stand the experience.
Dismemberment – exploding, into little fragments is a picture of an outburst of insanity.
But St. Niklaus threw himself on the ground and again you have evidence of his basic, instinctive sanity, which makes the whole difference between a schizophrenic and a normal person.
Instead of going off his head he knew how to cling to reality, the earth being the basic physical reality of human life and he clung to that so as not to be pulled out of himself through trying to face something beyond human understanding.
He showed that utmost simplicity and humility of attitude which is lacking in the schizophrenic who goes about saying that he himself is Christ or God.
St. Niklaus did not identify with what he saw but held on to the reality where he belonged and thus was able to bear the experience.
This picture has been compared with that of the avenging Christ as described in Revelation 1, 13, where He is the avenger with the sword coming out of His mouth.
Jung has also pointed out that this ultimate and last vision is connected with the visions he had before. First he saw the star and the light in heaven, and then was touched by the light when it hit him in the abdomen, after which he did not eat, and now again he sees a light, but this time in the shape of a human face.
The light has come closer and closer.
At first he only sees it far away, this time he sees with his own eyes a content within, it has become a personal being.
Taking it psychologically you could say that it was a process of approaching consciousness for a content slowly comes closer and when the person sees a human face it means that now the content has reached a stage where the human being can have a human reaction towards it, it has advanced a step and has reached a layer where it can be understood or assimilated,
Only when it has reached human shape can you realize it. St. Niklaus does not say much about this vision. Some therefore who do not like the vision have criticized this fact, but anyone who has had such an inner experience knows that the deeper it is the less one says about it.
I want first to go on with Bovillus description.
He says that St. Niklaus saw a face and on the head was a three-fold tiara, or papal crown, in the middle of which was the sphere of the world, and on the sphere a cross.
The face had a long three-fold beard.
Six sword blades without handles seemed to go out from the face in different directions.
One went from the forehead upwards and penetrated the sphere and the cross, with the broad part in the forehead and the point upwards.
The others emanated from the two eyes, having their points in the eyes and the large part outside, two came out of the nose with the broad part in the nostrils, the sixth had the broad part upwards and the point in the mouth.
Bovillus was affected with pre-Reformation ideas and put into his description a negative figure of the Pope.
Martin Luther says this shows the wickedness of the papal system and the whole vision is said to show the rottenness of the Pope and the Catholic Church.
So you see St. Niklaus might have done better to say nothing, for the thing was so twisted by others that he had to be more and more silent about it.
It is an interesting fact that it is said that after this vision Niklaus had a painting made of it in his hermitage, so you see the importance of it.
According to reports, the painting is not as Bovillus describes the vision, but more like what we have seen in the church at Sachseln.
The actual painting shows a face with a beard and a wheel around it with six pointed rays within the wheel, three going out and three coming in.
In his own comments on the wheel Niklaus never mentions swords, but speaks of the spokes of a wheel, so probably Bovillus saw the painting in the darkness of the cell and thought the spokes represented swords, but the saint himself never said so, but gave a long explanation of the spokes of the wheel.
A copy of the panting made in his cell is in the church at Sachseln but the face has been painted over by someone who could not stand the original threatening face, and turned it into a sweet face of God.
One can see that there is a different picture underneath but the church does not want the threatening face to be seen.
A German named Ulrich, a kind of mystic who wandered about on a pilgrimage, as Niklaus had wanted to do, but of whose background we know nothing, made a report which was printed in Augsburg in several versions.
He says that he had an interview with St. Niklaus when the latter asked him if he had seen his will and his book of wisdom and brought him (Ulrich) a drawing with only the spokes and gave this pilgrim the following explanation: I would like to let you see my book in which I am studying and whose teaching I try to understand.
He showed the drawing of a wheel with six spokes as shown and he said: Do you see this figure, the Divine Being is in the center that is the undivided Godhead in which the saints find their inner joy and pleasure.
The three points which point towards the inner circle, those are the three persons
and they emanate from the one Godhead and embrace heaven and the whole world which is in their power, and as they emanate from divine power, so they are one and indivisible in everlasting power.
As you see by the wheel from the inward turning point of the inner circle there is a great breadth which ends in a small point.
As is the meaning and form of the spoke, so is the all powerful God who covers and surrounds the whole of Heaven and who, in the form of a little child, entered and came out of the highest Virgin without violation of her virginity.
(You can say that God is great within and when he becomes man in the outer world he is a helpless little child, born of a Virgin, so he narrows Himself when He comes out.)
He has also given us the same delicate body as a food together with His indivisible Godhead.
As you see by this spoke which is also broad at the inner central circle and small at the outer circle, even so is the greatness of the all powerful God in the small substance of the host.
Now observe a further spoke of the wheel which is also broad at the inner circle and small at the outer, that is the meaning of man’s life. In this short time we can, through the love of God, earn an unspeakable joy which has no end.
That is the meaning of my wheel.
One cannot be quite sure whether the further texts are St. Niklaus’ or the pilgrim’s, so I am omitting them.
You see, what seems to have happened is that first St. Niklaus had a terrifying vision and then he had a painting made of it and covered that with a mandala.
The idea of the wheel and the spokes probably comes from mystical texts.
In all probability St. Niklaus had seen such drawings and treaties by German mystics where God is represented as a circle.
For instance, Seuse represented Him as an indivisible circle.
The idea of the mandala is widespread in the German mysticism of the time and St.
Niklaus probably knew of it and somehow felt the urge to integrate this terrible face into such a mandala drawing.
Jung says in speaking of him, that through his loneliness and his turning to inner things, St. Niklaus had looked so deeply into himself that he had a terrible and wonderful genuine inner experience.
In this situation the dogmatic idea of the godhead in the mandala was very helpful because it enabled him to assimilate the vision of God and saved him from disintegration.
Jung’s idea is that he made use of the traditional image of the circle and its dogmatic interpretation and with the help of this mandala drawing, which served as an instrument of order, he protected himself from psychological dissociation, or from a schizophrenic outburst.
The mandala has the function of holding the person together, conserving the totality of the person from disruption and is the instrument of assimilation of such a tremendous experience.
The idea of the godhead being a circle is a general mystical idea, but the idea of the wheel is original.
It is a mandala and has the function of bringing order into the inner chaos.
It serves, as Jung says, to make the experience understandable.
A stone which falls into quiet water makes circles of waves and in the same way such a sudden and violent vision has a long later affect.
It is like a shock which has to be slowly assimilated by living it over and over again and therefore there will be a tremendous spiritual effort at integration.
The shocking experience needed assimilation by human understanding.
The vision is a hunch, an “Einfall”, it is something which “falls into” your mind, or occurs to you.
Such a vision, Jung says, is a powerful “Einfall” in the original meaning of the word and therefore there was always the effort to make rings round it, like the rings round the stone which fell into the water.
As it was the teaching of the time that God was the highest good and perfection, such a vision with its tremendous contrast with the dogmatic teaching must have had a great moral effect and he therefore needed many years to integrate it into consciousness and he did it with a mandala, as man has always done since the Bronze Age, for even Paleolithic material shows mandalas.
But even if no such writings had come to the Ranft and if St. Niklaus had never seen a round window in a church, he probably still would have been able to put his experience into this form because it is archetypal.
It is a refugium, a method of saving oneself, which is why he has put the circle over the terrifying face.
We might still add one point to the symbolism of the wheel for which we have to go into the meaning of the number six.
There are two groups of three.
According to number symbolism the three represents any kind of dynamic creative power and six represents the reaction of the receiving creature to creation, the creative emanation and the counter-reaction towards the centre which is why R. Allendy in his book, Le Symbolisme des Nombres 1918, says that six represents the tension between the creature and his creator.
In antiquity six was the number of Aphrodite and of marriage which again means the equilibrium of two poles of opposites.
Six is therefore an equilibrium as a dynamic fact.
It is a polarity through which counter action tends to stabilize itself in opposition.
In Neo-Platonism much is said about mystical, magical wheels, symbols of the relation between the upper and higher spheres.
We can say that the wheel is an effort to put into form the dynamic dialectical process in which St. Niklaus tried over and over again to relate to the shocking experience till a process which is going on; it turns round and carries the process within him in a constant effort for relation to it from another and still another angle, which is the typical kind of assimilation for a very vital symbol.
It was still a “process” going on in him probably till his death.
It is depressing and shocking in a way to think that a man who has devoted his whole life to God and totality has been rewarded by this shocking and terrifying experience, it shows that the process of individuation is not a kindergarten affair for those who want safety and a life free from suffering.
Jung says that in the neighborhood of death, and in the evening of a long and meaningful life, a view opens sometimes into great spaces, for in old age one is no longer concerned with the vicissitudes of daily life but in the observance of far away things.
In old age the outer shell becomes thinner and people become sensitive under the mask of not minding any more and then the spirit of God can penetrate more easily and call man again to the fear of the immeasurable Godhead.
The dangerous age for the outbreak of schizophrenia is between puberty and 30, and again in old age, because in these periods consciousness weakens and if a content of the unconscious breaks through and there is not enough healthy personality to hold it, schizophrenia occurs.
St. Niklaus carried the potentiality of this experience all through his life. It was probably the whole nagging and tormenting quality in his psyche and, as a flower opens, the vision came at the end of his life, but at that time he was able to assimilate it.
It is also the completion of the Wotan motif, which I tried to show you, going through the whole series of the visions, because the divine figure looks at him with an expression of anger and menace.
The name of the god Wotan is connected in Gothic language with fury, brutality and rage, with being possessed and mad.
The same word is also connected with the idea of being poetical, inspired, and with storm, courage, sexual impulse and even sperm and ecstatic love.
All these words are etymologically akin and Wotan was said to look at people in a penetrating way so that they became terrified and shocked.
Nietzsche whose illness was due to the invasion of such an image refers to the great hunter, the unknown god who looked down at him through clouds with a mocking eye.
But his heart did burst into fragments.
If we ask why this Wotanic influence comes up again, why does the image of God as it breaks through have such an archaic form, I would not say that it was Wotan, though it carries an amazing number of analogous features to that god, as well as having the features of the Judeo-Christian divinity.
We must ask if the image of God reveals itself from the unconscious of the human being and, if it has a certain background, we must ask why does the unconscious pick up old archaic features and fill them with these ideas?
There must be a purpose.
We can say that there two things lacking in the Judeo- Christian image of God.
First the relationship to Nature, though God did reveal Himself in the rain or in the burning bush, or other natural phenomena, but the connection of God with the surrounding cosmos was much thinner than that of Wotan who is the storm in the woods.
The Judeo-Christian God is more an entity outside cosmic nature.
But there is another feature which is as much emphasized as in the old Germanic tradition, namely the relationship of God to what Jung calls the principle of synchronicity.
Wotan is the inventor of the throwing of runes, sticks with certain drawings on them, something similar to the I Ching.
Conclusions were drawn in accordance with the way the sticks fell, it was an oracle technique which is still carried on in some African tribes.
The medicine man has a collection of animal bones or sticks and from the patterns they make on the floor he is able to see hidden facts, it is a technical help to visualize the unconscious.
If we take these mantic methods seriously psychologically, then we have to free ourselves from causal rational thinking.
Jung has introduced into our understanding of a series of events the idea of synchronicity, which means a principle of correspondence or similarity which makes things which are not causally connected like to coincide at a certain moment.
The fact that I throw the sticks does not produce the victory, but it coincides with it, it is a Just-So story without causal connection.
Wotan was the inventor of this technique with the key position in synchronistic events.
You can find traces of the same thing in Jewish tradition.
Dr. Hurwitz has informed me that the old Jews had an oracle technique to find out the will of Yahweh.
This was an archaic remnant which had been dropped, while in the Germanic religion it was the living means of contacting the Godhead, a spontaneous connection of the divine within nature.
These features of the God are important to the lonely individual who wants to find out where he stands in surrounding nature and to relate to the Divine, for he needs its manifestation.
What does it help me if I pray to God and have no answer? How do I know I have touched something which is real to me?
If there is no manifestation, no hint from the Divine it needs a lot of faith to believe in it.
In the Christian faith we have just to believe and hope for the best, but if one never has personal confirmation faith becomes difficult, and, as we see in our civilization, any kind of anti-Christian propaganda can destroy it in us and it can be dropped as an illusion.
Therefore there is a feeling need for direct connection with God and there our eyes naturally turn to Nature and again back to the phenomenon of the miracle or marvel and there you see people experience synchronistic events which they generally, take as confirmation of the fact that they are touching something real, that they are realizing something which is greater than themselves, that they are ” on the track.”
One woman, for instance, dreamt that she met three tigers and next day in an ordinary Swiss barn came across three tigers.
There is no causal connection but it is a direct experience, which will naturally make the dream more real to her and make her more concerned with its content.
The archaic man within us will take it as a sign, a hint from the gods, that this dream is really important.
We must reckon with the archaic man within us and respect him as older than ourselves.
St. Niklaus living in this green dark valley only confronted by the trees and no house or any other building in sight, was right in nature and it is therefore only natural that his experience of God would include nature.
The experience wanted to reach him in its full reality. St. John of the Cross also had a very close relation to nature, though not so close as that of St. Niklaus.
This complete inclusion of nature makes St. Niklaus a very special kind of saint.
As a Christian saint he is enriched and completed with the more archaic features of the healer, the medicine man, and the Shaman, and it seems as if in the process of individuation there is a return to a more archaic and pagan layer leading to the inclusion of the outer reality of nature and primitive physical man.
In that sense you can say that his inner experience and development anticipated features of the process of individuation in modern man because now, a few hundred years later, we have met with the same questions and problems.
In history great future developments are often anticipated through a few lonely persons and after a time more and more people discover them, so we can say that we are confronted with the same problems which St. Niklaus touched upon a few hundred years earlier, so that in the study and experience of his visions for I do not mean that we should imitate him – we can learn about our own problems and those with which civilization is now confronted. ~Marie-Louise Von Franz, Dreams and Visions of Niklaus Flue, Pages 72-80