Nora Mindell – Obituary of Marie-Louise von Franz

In Loving Memory of Dr. Marie-Louise von Franz by Nora Mindell

The first time that I met Dr. Marie-Louise von Franz was in 1964.

I was barely twenty-one years old, had just graduated from the first four years of an American university, and was in search of a different approach to the popular trends prevailing in psychology and psychotherapy in the United States at that time.

I had scoured the libraries for reading material and had suddenly come across a book of C. G. Jung’s which excited and surprised me because his writings exuded life, profound spiritual reality, and a vast intelligence.

Shortly thereafter, a friend of mine visiting in Zurich reported that Jung had recently died and that a most unusual woman, a kind of spiritual successor, was carrying on his work together with an inspired group of other pupils.

Then I had a most perplexing dream, one of the few that I remember from my youth.

In it, I was standing to one side of Dr. von Franz as she was excavating a Greek site. But instead of relics and artifacts from the past, a complex pattern of vibrating, three-dimensional geometric figures emerged out of a mandala-shaped foundation, as though they formed the skeleton of a town or a city.

She beckoned to me to come closer and join in the dig.

The dream was quite obscure to me at the time, but so powerful and alluring that I found a way to visit Zurich and meet Dr. von Franz.

That first encounter will remain forever etched in my memory.

At the time, she occupied several rooms in the middle of the village of Kusnacht, a town on the outskirts of the city of Zurich.

She gave analysis in a large room separated from a small anteroom by a room divider.

In this small niche, as I briefly waited for my hour, I was accosted by a lovable bulldog named Nibby, who enthusiastically sniffed and licked me all over.

(Only afterward did 1 realize that he was tracking the smells of my own collie, whom I hadn’t brought with me to the hour. That was a mistake I quickly learned to correct in future sessions. The two dogs became fast friends, and I was able to enjoy peace during my hours, relatively speaking, when I brought my dog, Cleo.)

Then Dr. von Franz suddenly stood before me, shook my hand, and led me into her main room, where she sat me down in front of her and began to question me in depth.

I was overwhelmed by a striking variety of impressions; first of all by this small, stocky, attractive woman, her intense gaze, her colorful, sophisticated level of conversation in English, and her no-nonsense, earthy manner (even evident in several food stains visible on her tailored suit; I later learned that she privately enjoyed such indications of natural imperfection in contrast to the elegant, sterile atmosphere of her childhood).

Dr. von Franz was in a class of her own.

One might describe her as eccentric, but that is too superficial a characterization.

There was an aura of numen about her, and a powerful sense of brilliance, but most of all, a sensitivity and living connection to a transcendental dimension of reality emanating from her that deeply moved me, although I could only struggle to grasp it at the edges.

She was surrounded by stacks of books and an amazing array of objects (some priceless, others personal and interesting) along with some patrician pieces of antique furniture—family heirlooms, no doubt.

The entire picture revealed manifold aspects of her unique personality.

It is impossible to actually convey in words the many different facets that struck me in that initial hour.

Throughout our conversation, I was repeatedly touched and fascinated by what she said and by the way in which she spoke to me out of the depths of what seemed to be a deep, unseen source.

At the same time, she was full of humor, curious about mundane matters in daily life, and at times refreshingly revealing about her own personal opinions.

When I finally summoned enough courage to ask her if she would consider giving me analysis (fantasizing all the while how unrealistic my wish must be), she politely declined, explaining that the sanitation pipelines underlying Kusnacht had been overflowing in a recent dream of hers, a warning that she was overworked.

Then she patiently went through a litany of names and remarks about possible alternative candidates.

After a while, she suddenly became silent, as if she was pondering some private thought.

Then she smiled broadly, declaring: “Well, I guess there is nothing for it. I shall have to take you on myself.… But please don’t let Miss Hannah know, because I promised her I wouldn’t do this!”

I left the session shortly thereafter, stunned, joyful, and full of wonder and fear that she would change her mind, particularly if this lady who was not known to me did find out.

Over the years I came to know Dr. von Franz not only as an extraordinary analyst but also as a revered mentor and a most dear friend.

There are so many wonderful stories I could recount to honor her, one of the great women of this century, who will probably not be recognized as such because our Zeitgeist lags behind.

Among many things that Dr. von Franz taught me was to make my Latin soul aware of the fact that its emotional spontaneity (which I would enjoy giving rein to now by sharing some more recollections) longed to learn to bow and serve a deeper imperative of the objective psyche.

And so I feel that I must sacrifice my urge to relate more personal stories in order to attempt a different task, clearly laid out by my unconscious when I dreamed (in relation to writing a contribution to this Festschrift) that Dr. von Franz was alive again and needed my help to clear out her attic.

It was a rather challenging task because the attic contained a large living fish that she wanted me to carry down to the main room.

Fairy tales, Greek, Chinese, and African mythology—among so many other fields such as alchemy and mathematics—her life included a multitude of interests which she pursued with a depth of intelligence given to few, at the same time that she possessed a dedication to and heartfelt sense of the importance of irrational reality.

Her prolific and outstandingly creative career culminated in an investigation of Jung’s thesis that the duality of spirit and matter rests on an underlying unity.

As she put it in her own words: “The empirical world of appearances is…[ultimately] based on a transcendental

background.”2

After Jung completed his initial work on synchronicity, he speculated that the next step in understanding the unitary existence of psyche and matter would be to study the just-so character of natural numbers, namely, their qualitative as well as their quantitative characteristics.

He even suspected that natural numbers in their double capacity were inherent ordering factors mediating between psychic processes and empirical manifestations in physical reality.

Jung set down his concerns, intuitions, and thoughts on number in a note which was headed by a mysterious-looking equation:

I ¼ 1N ð1N IÞ

and was followed by a particular set of remarks about the just-so properties of the first five integers.3

This note formed one of the primary inspirations for von Franz’s books Number and Time and Psyche and Matter, both stunning expressions of her extraordinary capacity to grapple with these revolutionary ideas in depth.

Even when she became ill in later years and could no longer hold a book upright to read by herself, she continued to devote herself to this study, deepening many of her ideas, expanding others, and working on new ones.

I often sat at her bedside or shared the traditional four o’clock tea, during which she frequently discussed the thoughts she was mulling over.4

Once, while chatting about Jung’s note on number, she reported a dream about a huge fish swimming around in a tank along with many smaller ones.

She expressed the hope that others would “cook and serve” them one day, because the paradigms that Jung and she dealt with were ever so essential to expanding the confines of our dominant principles in modern science as well as in psychology.5

This was the association to my dream that led to my decision to have von Franz “speak” through this writing and present several insights that she was brooding over which are not directly included in her published works, as far as I know.

She was naturally struck by the introductory equation in Jung’s note on number (which is on line 1) and explained that the symbol 1N represented the pleroma for Jung.

She pointed out that the pleroma was alluded to in the Gospel of St. John in which Christ lived in the plenitude of the father and was the plenitude of the father.6

The pleroma represents the plenitude of everything, and because it is everything, it is also nothing.

Like the contents of an egg, there is no chick, she added, but the chick is potentially contained in it.7

The Gnostics employed the term pleroma to describe a metaphysical state of fullness in which all psychic potentials intermingle.

In this state of latent promise, the opposites are preexistent and every facet of existence is contaminated with everything else.8

The pleromatic condition signifies deepest unconsciousness and designates the potential condition of all forms which are not yet differentiated or actualized.9

According to Jung, this represents the potential archetypal world as the underlying pattern out of which all creation arises.

The pleroma is the primordial condition of the collective unconscious in which all paradoxes are abolished and time is eternal.

In essence, it denotes for Jung the timeless, preexistent world plan or antecedent model latent in God’s mind, according to which He realized actual creation.

In later conversation, von Franz pointed out that the unus mundus is practically an identical concept to the pleroma, but the unus mundus is more Neoplatonic and rational, whereas the pleroma is more complete, mysterious, and irrational.10

The Gnostic pleroma signifies a more dynamic and creative plenitude in Jung and von Franz’s estimation.

It is the creative, primordial wellspring, the “mother of the world,” the flower of Hellenistic culture, a concept which strongly emphasizes the sacred divine nature of the origins pictured as the “High God” (one of many names), also called the “Nothing of Water, Air and Fire,” a male god, yet a quasi-hermaphroditic being as well.

A modern parallel to the pleroma and unus mundus is the relativistic world-body (block universe) of Minkowski and Einstein, with three space coordinates and one time coordinate forming a four-dimensional continuum which might be only potentially existent.11

The experience of the so-called Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen paradox also suggests a potential Oneness in the realm of matter.

Successful tests on such EPR correlations have shown that particles that were once united and are separated afterward continue to behave as though they knew about the ongoing states of each other, without the presence of causal influences.

(This fact holds true even when the two particles are separated by long distances.)12

Von Franz also pointed to information in line 13 of Jung’s note which helps to

unravel the mystery of line 1. Line 13 reads:

ἕ  sὸ pa~ : 1N ð1N IÞ ¼ Kenosis ἕ  sὸ pᾶ  (hen to pan) is a Greek term meaning that one is one and the whole; namely, one has two characteristics—it is the basic counting unit and, at the same time, it is the totality of all numbers.

Dr. von Franz explained the double function of numbers as follows:

“When you count, you are bound to be dealing with the totality of the cosmos. Therefore, when you say ‘I,’ what you mean is the cosmos but for ‘I,’ i.e., the cosmos minus ‘I,’ because this ‘I’ steps out of the totality, the totality is minus ‘I.’ When I say ‘I,’ I augment the world by ‘I,’ which steps out of the totality … or I diminish the totality by ‘I.’”

Playfully, von Franz went on to expound this idea by pointing to her teacup on the table and noting that her teacup had now stepped out of the totality and become an individual, distinct object.

“So, when I say one teacup,” she carried on, “the totality has already lost a teacup, and that is why Jung wrote: ð1N – IÞ.”13

By adding infinity to the term N (which is usually used to define the set of natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), Jung used the new term to imply something not real but potentially existent.

Out of this primordial state of oneness (1N), a paradoxical one (I) emerges as creation begins to unfold; this process is at the same time “one among the many” (hen) and simultaneously time bound up with totality as one is the whole (pan).

In a similar vein, Jesus declared in John 12:45 “And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.” To allude to this inexplicable mysterium, Jung designates one with a slash (I) and not a normal “1.”14

Therefore, we must emphasize that as von Franz pointed out in Number and Time, C. G. Jung was the first in contemporary times to bring the two definitions of one together, namely the normally accepted quantitative approach in which “1” is the first counting unit and a second definition of “1” as in “1N – I,” that is, infinity minus one.

The process of the “1” emerging out of the “I,” that is, out of the oneness totality (that von Franz referred to above) is known as kenosis, a powerful symbol of a mysterious transformation process whereby God empties Himself of His Totality, for example, as seen in Christian doctrine.

Although in the Gospel of St. John, Jesus lived in the plenitude of the Father, according to Phil. 2:6–8, He “ekenosed” Himself, incarnating into a concrete form of reality.

Before creation, God was the potential all-embracing cosmos, the pure divinity.

Then he “ekenosed” himself into Mr. Meyer. With a big chuckle, von Franz rolled her eyes at the humorous marvel of this staggering transformation.15

Breaking out into a radiant smile she added: “That kenosis of God pretty much blows us away.”

And she concluded that this element is what motivated Jung to declare that the infinite set of natural numbers represents—if anything at all—an abstract cosmogony derived from the monad.16

Furthermore, as referred to by Jung in his “Seven Sermons,” the primordial continuity of the pleroma also contains the drive toward discontinuity and differentiation. 17

In a like manner, von Franz spoke about the eternal circle in which quantity and quality are not yet separated, but you can intuit a certain potential for a specific order or structure to come into existence and start to unfold.

She called these potentials the “seeds.”18

As soon as these seeds begin to enter time and become observable, something is taken away from the primal totality; the plenitude gets impoverished.

This situation is the starting point for the next impoverishment to take place.

But it does not simply involve a mechanical procedure of evolution.

Qualitatively speaking, you cannot simply compare changes from one state to another without observing the entire situation that has previously transpired.

For instance, when you take one teacup out of the totality, you then have the totality minus one teacup.

But when you remove the second teacup, you remove it from a new set of holistic conditions emerging out of the first step of the “totality minus one.”

This means, in reality we are viewing temporarily oriented numbers, not simply numbers ordered into a stationary set of quantities.

Every step in relationship to infinity influences and shapes the step to come.

“Actually, I would call this process-oriented mathematics,” von Franz pronounced.19

It is a big fish, mind-boggling, because this factor demonstrates that in reality you can never exactly predict what will emerge next from the original unity.

The transformation of life processes varies unpredictably from moment to moment in terms of what evolves next when you try to measure them qualitatively and quantitatively at the same time.

Herein lies the nature of the irrational individuality of processes unfolding in time.

“By the way,” von Franz continued, “a certain set of patterns exist—let’s call them Bewegungskonfigurationen [configurations of movement] that you can observe manifesting in this unfolding process.”20

They constitute our most accurate pictures of reality and are similar to the concept of trajectories in modern science.21

This term indicates the path followed by a moving object.

What we observe in terms of immediate perception is the object at different points in time and different positions in space.

This moving configuration, a trajectory, comes closer to describing our own ever-changing perceptions of reality, according to von Franz, in contrast to traditional Western platonic mathematics, which is more concerned with static, timeless concepts.

By way of concluding, von Franz sighed as she commented that Jung’s ideas were so ambiguous and difficult, they needed a breadth of heart and an unusual sensitivity of spirit to comprehend them from the paradoxical viewpoint of infinity versus the “here and now.”

Science had a long way to go.… She shook her head obscurely.22

May I personally add that my affection for her and my dedication to attempting to follow the quest that she undertook toward unraveling the underlying mystery of the unity of matter and spirit remains enduring.

I will also never stop cherishing our times together for the rest of my life.

Last night we sat chuckling over a cup of tea in my dream. Nora Mindell, Psychological Perspectives, 61: 440–447, 2018

English Translation of a Handwritten Note by C. G. Jung on the First Five Natural Whole Numbers, Courtesy of The M.-L. von Franz Institute for Studies in Synchronicity

(Note: Line numbers added for reference)

1 I ¼ 1N – ð1N – IÞ This formula is a 2 petitio principii. I can 3 only be explained by means of itself.

4 Properties: 1. Cannot multiply itself by itself, 5 6 2. and can not reduce itself by division, nor can it divide 7 itself by any other whole number. 8 3. The One in and of itself does not count.9

The number sequence begins first 10 with 2.

11 4. If 1 counts, it is the first uneven 12 prime number.

13 ἕ  sὸ pᾶ : 1N ð1N IÞ ¼ Kenosis.

14 2. 1. Can multiply itself by itself

15 like all other numbers.

16 2. Can only be divided by itself 2   2 ¼ I, in

17 this respect it is an even prime number, all other

18 prime numbers [are] uneven.

19 3. The first number that counts.

20 4. The sum of I þ I ¼ 2x 1N – ð1N – IÞ ¼1N – ð1N – 2Þ.

21 3. 1. Can only divide itself by itself like

22 the 2.

23 2. Is the first uneven prime number aside from the 1.

24 Prime numbers¼aperiodic intervals in the number sequence.

25

26

27

28 3. Sum of 2þI ¼ capable of increase, divisible only through itself, 29 ¼ prime number þ incapable of multiplication and indivisible.

30 4. 1. The first self-multiple, namely 22.

31 [1.] 4 points ¼ 3-sided pyramid. First body.

32 2. Equations of the 5th degree can no longer be solved

33 6¼ property of 4.

34 3. Sum of the first two prime numbers I þ 3, i.e.

35 that which is not capable of multiplication by itself and is indivisible

NORA MINDELL   IN LOVING MEMORY OF DR. MARIE-LOUISE VON FRANZ 445

36 þ that which is capable of multiplication and is divisible by itself.

37 (duplication 2x þ 2 ) ¼ Axiom of Maria 3 þ I o.[r?] 4 —I [?].

38 5. 1. Prime number.

39 2. Whole number 4 þ I.

40 Sum of the divisibles 3 þ 2.

NOTES

  1. Wondering whether this woman was a devoted housekeeper, I came to learn that Barbara Hannah was quite a lot more than that. I developed a friendship with her in her later years and deeply cared for her. She was a singularly gifted personality in her own right, one of the most “individuated” people I have ever met.
  2. M.-L. von Franz, Number and Time: Reflections Leading toward a Unification of Depth

Psychology and Physics (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1974), p. 9.

  1. The one used by Jung here is a slash, in contrast to the conventional way of writing “one” in conventional mathematics. The note was given to Dr. von Franz shortly before his death with the comment that he was too old to continue working on it and passed the task on to her. See von Franz (Zurich: Scientific Historical Collection of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology).
  2. Often I was in the company of my close colleagues, Dr. David Eldred and Dr. Roy Freeman, during these discussions.
  3. Personal communication, March 5, 1994.
  4. Personal communication, January 26, 1997. This notion is expressed in the Bible as Christ being God’s envoy and representative on earth. See J. Becker, Das Evangelium nach Johannes: Kapitel 11-21 (Wurzburg: Gutersloher Verl.-Haus Mohn, 1991), pp. 484–494.
  5. Personal communication, January 26, 1997.
  6. C. G. Jung, Dream Analysis—Notes of the Seminar Given in 1928–1930 by C. G. Jung

(Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984), p. 131ff.

  1. Ibid., p. 593.
  2. Personal communication, April 5, 1997. Jung uses the term unus mundus frequently (i.e., in volumes 10 and 14) to designate the matrix of the collective unconscious as the “universal seed bed” preconditioning all forms of concrete reality in psyche and matter. See C. G. Jung, Civilization in Transition, CW, vol. 10 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1964), par. 780; and Mysterium Coniunctionis, CW, vol. 14 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1963), pars. 325ff, 413ff.
  3. A. Wenzl, Die philosophischen Grenzfragen der modernen Naturwissenschaft (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1954).
  4. The original idea was laid out in A. Einstein, B. Podolski, and N. Rosen, “Can quantummechanical description of physical reality be considered complete?” in Physical Review, vol.

47 (1935), pp. 777–780; and C. P. Enz, “Wolfgang Pauli between quantum reality and the royal path of dreams,” in Symposia on the Foundations of Modem Physics 1992: The Copenhagen Interpretation and Wolfgang Pauli (Helsinki, Finland, June-August 1992), K. V. Laurikainen and C. Montonen, eds. (Singapore: World Scientific), p. 198. I am grateful to Daniel Zimmermann for making me aware of the two examples in this paragraph and the references in notes 11 and 12.

  1. Personal communication, November 11, 1995.
  2. My appreciation goes to D. Zimmermann for confirming that this “nut” was cracked correctly.
  3. Personal communication, January 26, 1997.
  4. C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (New York: Random House, 1963), p. 310f.
  5. Ibid., pp. 378–390.
  6. Personal communication, June 9, 1996.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. R. Karr, Goldmann Lexikon Physik. Vom Atom zum Universum (M€unchen: Wilhelm

Goldmann, 1999), p. 90.

  1. Personal communication, May 18, 1996.

The late Nora Mindell, Ph.D., trained and completed her doctorate with Dr. Marie-Louise von Franz. Dr. Mindell was a Zurich-based Jungian analyst and president as well as one of the founders of The M.-L. von Franz Institute for Studies in Synchronicity in Zurich, where she served as scientific director from 1994 to 2009.

Dr. Mindell wrote numerous lectures on the institute’s research endeavors, in particular studying the psychodynamics of severely ill children, and published several articles (in Switzerland and the United States) in affiliation.

Previously, she served as adjunct professor at the Union Institute and other U.S. colleges in their affiliation with the Graduate Studies Program in Europe.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

Grateful acknowledgment is made to The M.-L. von Franz Institute for Studies in Synchronicity for permission to reprint Nora Mindell’s article.