Carl Gustav Jung, 1875-1961 : A Memorial Meeting, New York, December 1, 1961
HENRY A. MURRAY
CARL G. JUNG’s life and works have given all mankind multiple causes for wonder, gratitude, and homage, and a galaxy of qualities to celebrate.
Certainly in the coming years-if there are any for our species -a procession of biographies and commentaries will be published, mostly in praise-in praise of the generative power of his ideas and of the wholeness of his charismatic personality; but also to some extent in opposition, for Jung was fearlessly, even recklessly, outspoken-a distinctively controversial genius.
Here it will be my part and pleasure to portray one hour of the OId Man in action, as experienced by countless individuals in quest of help.
For forty years or more, men and women in distress, persons with blocked horizons, emotionally impoverished or crippled, were lured to Kusnacht from all parts of the
earth with their anticipations raised to an extraordinary pitch by reading something Jung had written that excited, baffled, beckoned, all at once, or by hearing of his daring intellectual vigor, clairvoyance, and wisdom.
Generally speaking, the hopes of these questers were as high as their need-bred fantasies were capable of lifting them, so high indeed that the uninitiated would most naturally assume that disillusionment was inevitable.
But instead f experiencing disillusionment, instead of encountering the replica or equivalent of what they had fervently envisaged, they were almost invariably astonished: reality outran imagination.
As foreseen, they found in Dr. Jung not only “a river of waters in a dry place and the shadow of a great rock in a weary land” but, in addition, wine from an ageless vineyard, which evoked in each of them “an echo and a glimpse of what he thought a phantom or a legend until then.”
And those with a sufficient apperceptive reach would leave with the conviction “as invisible as music but positive as sound” that what they now knew they could “say thereafter to few men.”
Jung was humble before the ineffable mystery of each variant self that faced him for the first time, as he sat at his desk, pipe in hand, with every faculty attuned, brooding on the portent of what was being said to him.
And he never hesitated to acknowledge his perplexity in the presence of a strange and inscrutable phenomenon, never hesitated to admit the provisional nature of the comments he had to make or to emphasize the difficulties and limitations of possible achievement in the future.
“Whoever comes to me,” he would say, “takes his life in his hands.”
The effect of such statements, the effect of his manner of delivering his avowals of uncertainty and suspense, was not to diminish but to augment the patient’s faith in his
physician’s invincible integrity, as well as to make plain that the patient must take the burden of responsibility for whatever decisions he might make.
There have been scholars in our time whose erudition was more extensive and precise than Jung’s.
There have been doctors and priests who were capable of bringing their whole devoted minds to an equally sharp focus on the immediate plight of a suffering individual.
There have been poets who could digest into more captivating metaphors the essence of an enduring verity.
And there have been other creative moralists notable for their discernment and sagacity.
But whom can we name who has combined these powers with such beneficent and transformative effects?
Who-hour after hour, day after day -has been so acutely perceptive of the unique particularities of feeling, thought, and action manifested by the individual confronting him?
and also so penetrating and infallible in putting his finger on the crux of that individual’s dilemma?
and also so imaginative at the timely moment in culling from so vast a store of knowledge, personal experience, and reflection whatever was most pertinent to the understanding of that dilemma?
and also such a master of apt and pithy utterance that he could transmute his understanding into words which at their best would memorably convey not only a new and startling revelation of the existential difficulty, but a clue to its solution, an intimation of the saving way, and the courage to embark on it?
Emily Dickinson must have had in mind somebody with powers similar to Jung’s when
He found my Being-set it up
-Adjusted it to place-
Then carved his name-upon it –
And bade it to the East.1
In the words of one young man who went to Kusnacht for the first time: “Dr. Jung was the first full-blooded, all-encompassing, spherical human being I had ever met, and I knew of no fit standards, no adequate operations by which to measure his circumference and diameters.
I had only the touchstone of my own peculiar tribulation to apply to his intelligence with the importunate demand that he interpret what I presumably knew best-myself.
He proved more than equal to this exacting test, and within an hour my life was permanently set on a new course. In the next few days ‘the great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open,’ and I experienced the unconscious in that immediate and moving way that cannot be drawn out of books.
I came to see that my on-going life was small adventure and the world as I had known it no conclusion.
Instead of remaining framed by the standard judgments of my locality and time, I saw myself as the inheritor and potential bearer and promoter of mute historic forces struggling for emergence, consciousness, fulfillment, and communication.
All this and more I owe to Dr. Jung.”
For any number of us, no doubt, memories of comparable occasions will keep the heart and mind of this great man throbbing somewhere in our souls as vitally as ever.
And now, looking beyond us to prospective generations, we have abundant reasons to predict that:
Despite what current science disavows
Of his deep wisdom and physician’s skill,
There’s ample truth that fashion cannot kill,
To which posterity will cleave as time allows.
Whether or not they read him they shall feel
At crucial times the vigor of his name
Against them like a finger for the shame
And emptiness of what their souls reveal
In values prized as altars where they kneel
To consecrate the flicker, not the fiame.2 ~Henry A. Murray, A Memorial Meeting, New York Dec. 1, 1961, Page 17-21
- Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Vol. 2 (Cambridge, 1958), p. 46
- Adapted from Edwin Arlington Robinson, “George Crabbe.”