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Marie-Louise von Franz: Niklaus Von Flüe And Saint Perpetua: A Psychological Interpretation of Their Visions

Chapter 3

The Vision of the Tower

As a boy, Klaus was very pious and, from a psychological standpoint, extremely introverted. He often stole away from his friends and looked for a secluded place where he could pray.

((As he got older:’ says Woelflin,1 “he performed more and more good deeds and, while still a minor, he hardened his body by fasting every Friday and soon increased this to four days of fasting a week.

He fasted secretly for forty days each Lent by eating only a little bread and some dried pears each day:’

When reproached for being too hard on himself, Klaus answered, “It is according to God’s wilI:’2

This deep introversion seems to be in accordance with the tendencies of Klaus’s own unconscious for, as is reported in anothervision which he had at the age of sixteen, a friend, Erni an der Halden, 3 says that Brother Klaus confided in him that when he was sixteen, he saw a beautiful, high tower standing where his little

hermitage and chapel now stand, which is why he decided at a very young age to lead “a solitary life, which is what he did:’4

As M.-B. Lavaud5 points out, the tower is a symbol of God.6

Perhaps it is also an image for the role Klaus was to have for his people, namely, as a tower which defends and unifies them. 7

33 Lavaud goes on to remind us of the parable from St. Luke:8 “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also; he cannot be my disciple:’

And later, “Whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

For which of you intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?”

Here, the tower has to do with forsaking “all that he hath”9 and with the necessity of ending the unconscious participation mystique of family relationships.

This is not only the precondition of living a Christian life but is also a precondition of the individuation process.

The tower, moreover, is generally an allegory for the Church10 or the Virgin Mary11 and is, therefore, a feminine, maternal symbol.

Perhaps it is pertinent to mention here that a brother of Klaus’s mother, Matthias Hattinger von Wolfenschiessen, was a so-called Waldsbruder12 (hermit) who lived in a tower similar to the one Klaus later built for himself.

(The mother’s brother is often a personification of the mother’s animus, her inner attitude, making it possible to imagine that his mother’s side of the family had an influence on Brother Klaus.)13

34 Psychologically speaking, the negative aspect of a tower often means being trapped in introverted defence mechanisms that make one feel cut off and isolated.

A tower, as is a dungeon, is also an image of the self, especially when one’s fear of the self predominates.14

Seen positively, the tower is the motherly temenos, the holy realm, under whose protection the process of individuation can unfold.

Precisely in those fateful years of puberty when a drive towards the outer world awakens, the unconscious keeps Brother Klaus focused on this image of extreme limitation of the self which, however, is simultaneously an image of the goal of the “towering” personality he was to become.

35 Relatively late in life, when he was around thirty years old, Brother Klaus married Dorothea Wiss15 who came from a respectable family.

They had ten children 16 and lived together for a good twenty years.

He also held several positions within his community17 but he turned down the offer to become mayor.18

He took part in various expeditions of war, as a standard-bearer and later as a captain, though without deriving any pleasure from them.19

Towards the middle of his life, or shortly thereafter, he began to                                                                                       suffer from states of depression and inner restlessness,20 and it was during this time that he had most of the visions we know of. ~Marie-Louise von Franz, NIKLAUS VON FLUE AND SAINT PERPETUA, Page 23-25