Carl Gustav Jung, 1875-1961 : A Memorial Meeting, New York, December 1, 1961
The whose memory we have gathered to honor was my personal teacher and the friend of forty years, and so it is not easy to speak of him as a world-renowned figure, whose writings and teachings have influenced the thought of three generations and whose professional work in the consulting room has brought healing to hundreds of distressed individuals.
These things are facts-but there is also another side to the story.
Dr. Jung was never caught by the picture of himself as an important man.
Indeed, one of his daughters came home from school one day and told at the dinner table of her great surprise when her father had been mentioned, during a lesson on contemporary Switzerland, as one of the leading people in the country.
She said, “I thought Father was just a country doctor!”
It always seemed to come as something of a surprise to him when he was singled out for special recognition, but he carried his many honors with dignity and played his part in public meetings with apparent ease.
Yet even under the most impressive circumstances, his simple humanness was the most impressive thing about him.
He believed so implicitly in the value and importance of the individual human being that he never acted “the great man.”
He was always an individual vis-a-vis other individuals.
So, too, he never fell under the spell of generalities, or what he called “fat ideas.”
In his lectures, given in English over many years, he used simple and colloquial language, spiced with humorous stories and witty sallies.
He was a most creative person, a genius, and new and revolutionary thoughts often crowded in upon him in such profusion that when he came to write about them there was danger that in following his own train of thought he might lose the clarity necessary to convey them adequately to the reader.
This is one reason why he documented his writings, especially his later books, so heavily with research material, feeling the need, perhaps, to present as wide a base as possible for conclusions that are often so far in advance of contemporary thought.
It must have taken great self-restraint for him to defer writing about some of his most important discoveries for years, until he could gather sufficient evidence from his investigation of the unconscious of modern persons to convince himself beyond any doubt of their validity.
He says, for instance, that he waited ten years before writing about the part alchemical ideas play in the unconscious of modern people.
This fact I can vouch for from my own knowledge.
He imposed a similar probationary period on himself in regard to the role of mandala symbolism in the individuation process, while the material of his latest books, Aion and Mysterium Coniunctionis, was withheld for at least a decade.
For his sense of integrity and scientific accuracy was so strong that it could hold the flood of creative thought in check until the time seemed ripe for it to be given to the world.
In each of these last two books alchemical and Gnostic ideas have figured largely.
This must seem strange to the modern scientifically trained individual.
But, since Gnostic literature contains the fantasy of a whole epoch and sprang directly from a contact with the unconscious, it furnishes a unique source for the study of the psychic bedrock of mankind, which changes with such infinite slowness throughout the centuries.
And when it is realized that alchemy was really an attempt, albeit for the most part an unconscious attempt, to bring about a transformation of the alchemist himself, it does not seem so unlikely that the findings of these highly intelligent men should yield some fruitful notions relevant for modern depth psychology.
For alchemy was a discipline that aimed at the psychological development of man.
The first stage of the work was concerned with the restoration of the natural man-and was it not Freud’s aim to restore man, especially psychically sick man, to his natural being by making him aware of his instinctual nature?
But the alchemists were not satisfied with this result.
They undertook to search for a further stage in the development of their material that should result in the birth of a new man in man.1
It is with a corresponding phase of psychological development that Jung’s method of analytical work is mainly concerned.
For he found that as middle age approaches the unconscious places squarely before the mature man or woman the task of discovering within the psyche what can only be called the higher man, a new center or focus of psychic life, a value superior to the ego, containing elements from the unconscious as well as those from the conscious.
This is the factor that Jung called the self.
Because he had devoted himself to the task of his own inner development through the constant exploration and analysis of his own unconscious contents, Jung demonstrated in his own person the truth of his teaching.
He became a truly great man.
In spite of his greatness, his towering stature, or perhaps because of it, he was and remained a very modest person.
He loved to wear his old clothes, to work in his garden, to cook his own dinner, and he actually helped to build his house at Bollingen with his own hands, joining the masons’ labor union in order to do so.
He loved life, and he loved laughter and good fellowship.
He talked on equal terms with the simple people of the villages and mountains.
He knew many of them personally, and they spoke to him of the legends of the countryside and even of the magic that is still practiced in the remote parts of Switzerland, of which they will not speak to a stranger.
But then they did not consider him a stranger.
And indeed he was not a stranger to any human experience that was the measure of his humanity.
It might have been said of him: “Nothing human was alien to him.”
In Africa the medicine man called him brother; New Mexico a Navaho chief was his friend; in India a Tibetan lama in the far north and a Brahman priest in the south, both accepted him as one of themselves, an enlightened one, and spoke to him freely of the sacred mysteries of their religion.
And in the symbolic images they used he recognized many that were familiar to him from his exploration of the deeper reaches of the human psyche.
When an individual consulted Jung professionally, however reticent he might be, however anxious lest his peculiar thoughts might mean he was “crazy,” in a few minutes he would find himself unburdening his heart to this stranger, who was no stranger but an understanding friend.
And the sense of isolation and of worthlessness would be dispelled, for the moment at least, because he felt himself understood, accepted, and respected by this great and simple man.
For Jung lived in his own life the truth that he also taught, namely, that it is the individual human being who is the carrier of life and that on him depends the welfare of the world.
The dangers to civilization and to the world itself depend on the psyche of man; he alone can save or destroy his world and himself.
In writing of the critical situation in the world today, Jung pointed out that the shadow side of the individual, containing his unrecognized and unaccepted impulses, should be made conscious as part of his own psyche.
It should no longer be projected upon “the other” who is then suspected of all the evil the individual will not admit as lying dormant within himself, so that “the other” is then seen as “the enemy.”
Only through a long and painful confrontation with the evil within himself can the individual really change.
“The effect on all individuals, which one would like to see realized,” Dr. Jung writes, “may not set in for hundreds of years, for the spiritual transformation of mankind follows the slow tread of the centuries and cannot be hurried or held up by any rational process of reflection, let alone be brought to fruition in one generation.
What does lie within our reach, however,” he continues, “is the change in individuals who have, or create, an opportunity to influence others of like mind in their circle of acquaintance.
I do not mean by persuading or preaching-I am thinking, rather, of the wellknown
fact that anyone who has insight into his own actions, and has thus found access to the unconscious, involuntarily exercises an influence on his environment.”2
This is the kind of influence that Dr. Jung himself exerted. One could not be in his presence without being affected by it.
He might or might not convince by his written word, but he did convince by his presence.
His being spoke louder than his words.
One feels this unconscious effect of his personality on seeing the filmed record of an interview with him.
Even that remote contact impresses the observer deeply-how much more the face-to-face encounter!
Jung was indeed a great-a wonderful-man.
His last word has been spoken, his last book written, but his spirit lives on; and it is our task to see that the light he has kindled shall continue to burn in the hearts of men. ~M. Esther Harding, A Memorial Meeting, New York Dec. 1, 1961, Page 1-9
- Rudolf Bernoulli, “Spiritual Development as Reflected in Alchemy and Related Disciplines,” Spiritual Disciplines (Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks, 4; New York, 1960), p. 323.
- C. G. Jung, The Undiscovered Self, tr. R. F. C. Hull (Boston, 1958), pp. 108-1og.