A Woman’s Way: A Conversation with Marie-Louise von Franz
The 74-year-old Mane-Louise von Franz is internationally recognized as one of the most loving and creative voices of analytical psychology.
In this wide-ranging conversation with Donna Spencer and our editor, Ernest Rossi, Marie-Louise begins with a few highlights of the significance of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra for an understanding of the current evolution of human consciousness.
helps us focus on the function of feeling as a guide through the maze of political and professional ideologies that can distort an individual’s insight and ever unique way.
Ernest Rossi (PP): What is the meaning of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra for Jung and modern consciousness?
Marie-Louise von Franz: I think it goes right to the heart of the problem of modern times because Nietzsche, as a parson’s son, fell out of the Christian tradition.
He fell headlong into Germanic paganism and Zarathustra, who is really Wotan, as Jung shows.
It illustrates the psychological prehistory of the whole madness of the Second World
That madness is still coming on because, you see, when the Self or the divine image is not recognized, then people fall into a secret inflation.
Nietzsche is the prototype of modern man having an inflation because of not believing any more.
It is the madness of not only Europe but also China and America.
When people do away with religious tradition, they fall into the Superman fantasy.
PP By the “Superman fantasy” do you mean that man himself, his conscious ego, can find an answer to all problems?
Marie-Louise: Yes. Jung’s seminar on Zarathustra goes through the intricacies of that process and demonstrates the distortion of feeling that takes place in modern consciousness.
It is very tricky!
What Nietzsche says is 75 percent true.
You read along and nod your head and say, “That’s true!”
Then suddenly, “Wheeee!’l-there comes a wrong, crazy turn in it-and then it goes on and
is right again.
That pattern is typical for all modern ideologies.
If you take Marxist ideology or Khoumeni’s preaching, or whatever, generally it is the truth with a wrong twist in it.
It catches the masses because it seems true and people overlook the wrong twist.
PP What is that wrong twist?
Marie-Louise: That wrong twist is often on the feeling-ethical level.
Nietzsche falls into exaggerating the wrong sentimentality by putting something which
belongs inside on the outside.
For instance, Nietzsche says in Zarathustra, “If you go to the woman, take the whip
That is completely true for the inner life. A man should whip his anima.
That means, he should be able to criticize his anima when it is appropriate to do so. Nietzsche, however, projected this impulse onto the real, outer woman; then it becomes a devilish, sadistic act.
In this way Nietzsche suddenly slips off and takes the outside as if it were inside, and vice versa, and tries to make a truth of it.
You could say that all dishonest journalism, ideologies, and mass movements operate in this manner.
PP They present a certain number of truths-they suck you in-but, then, with a wrong twist of feeling, they betray the human condition.
Donna Spencer: Would you say then that Americans who gravitate toward fundamentalist “quick cure” religions may be afraid of their feelings of depression.
That is, they cannot tolerate the negative feelings and the experience of not knowing?
Marie-Louise: Yes. The current financial crash of the dollar expresses a depression.
The crash in the stock market means that the libido has gone out of the money-making arena where the joy of life is sought in outward success.
The libido has dissipated and then there is a depression.
America should see the depression outside and inside instead of trying to get out of it quickly.
Donna: We need to develop the ability to not know and to tolerate depression?
Marie-Louise: It is the ability to stand quietly in darkness and wait for something
autonomous, to wait for the unconscious psyche to manifest-instead of playing tricks with the ego.
Donna: Is that what false religion does?
It finds only the good God and fails to deal with integrating the dark side of God?
Marie-Louise: Yes, but that is really a human tendency which we all share.
Clients in psychotherapy come to get rid of their depression as quickly as possible.
But Jung took them by their necks and dumped them into their depression, saying in essence, “You must get through it, not above and away from it.”
Naturally what the individual tries to deny or escape is mirrored in what whole nations try to deny or escape.
Hitler promised a quick, cheap outer solution by scapegoating the Jews.
He said, “The Jews are evil-get rid of them and then everything will be okay.”
Unfortunately, the Germans fell for such distorted thinking.
That psychology was anticipated in Nietzsche.
DEPRESSION CONFLICT AND CONSCIOUSNESS
Donna: Do you see that same trend in women’s consciousness?
In the attempt to avoid the depression, the dark side of feeling-and to be “liberated” they
try to deny feeling altogether, just like men do?
Marie-Louise: Yes. I think this issue is the same for both men and women.
It is a question of being honest or dishonest emotionally.
In families, there is a danger of becoming dishonest.
In mass movements, there is dishonesty. In ideologies, there is dishonesty.
War we need is honesty!
Donna: What is honesty?
Marie-Louise: It is a problem of feeling-to have the right feeling and not follow the road of bad taste.
In the Zarathustra seminar Jung points out how Nietzsche suddenly slips off into phrases of bad taste that document the beginning of his schizophrenia.
PP: What is the message in all this?
Marie-Louise: To follow the inner truth even if everybody deserts you and calls you crazy.
Donna: That was Joseph Campbell’s message also: Follow your heart, go for the bliss, be true to that which draws you from within yourself.
Marie-Louise: On occasion I have deceived myself in my life.
When I reflected after the events, however, I would always recall that I had an uneasy feeling from the beginning.
It is very difficult sometimes to listen to those uneasy feelings.
When everything looks all right on the surface, we do not want to see inner conflicts if we can avoid them.
PP Facing our conflicts honestly is the beginning of personal development.
Marie-Louise: Yes. People do not want to face the depression and therefore they
avoid facing the conflict.
When things are good, they want them to be 100 percent good, and they want them to stay that way forever.
The uneasy signs of decay are ignored, and then they jump at any bit of illusion.
It is natural, but we all must fight this inclination and try to look inside more clearly.
Donna: Can dreams bring us to an earlier awareness of conflict?
Marie-Louise: Yes. That is why people often ignore their dreams after analysis.
They brush off the conflict in the dream saying, “Oh, that’s not important-it’s just due to the fact that I went to bed late.”
Donna: Are you saying that after completing analysis, some people begin to rationalize their dreams?
Marie-Louise: Yes, because the dream contains contents they do not like.
They do not really want to know.
Donna: Does one get wiser in utilizing dreams as one gets older?
Marie-Louise: When one gets older, if one is reasonable, one sees that soon one will have to leave the world, and therefore one should clarify what is eternal and what is passing.
I feel now very often that such-and-such is no longer important, because I will not be here in a few years. The aging process helps one to select what is important.
Donna: Are you saying that as we get older, we are better able to sort out the things that are important to the Self as different from the things important to the ego?
Marie-Louise: Yes! We are able to do the right kind of sorting.
PP What is that sorting process like for you today?
What is important to you in relation to your own development?
Marie-Louise: Well, it is difficult to say.
I can only say that in my life, when I followed my feeling against everybody else’s opinion and advice, it turned out to be right.
FEELING AND UNITING THE OPPOSITES
PP: Is it possible to contrast the essay you wrote on “The Passion of Perpetua,” which he dealt with the archetypal basis of consciousness at the beginning of Christianity, with Nietzsche’s “Zarathustra,” which seemed to signal the end of Christianity?
Do you see a relationship between these two?
Are they marking a beginning and an end of the Christian era?
Marie-Louise: Yes, certainly.
Each one belongs to its time and testifies for its time.
For instance, to be Christian at the time of Perpetua would mean to be one-sidedly spiritual and one-sidedly fighting for the good-waving up the flag for the good, even up to death.
It was right at the time. Nowadays it would be meaningless.
There were people who stood up against gassing the Jews, and they were gassed with the others and forgotten.
Their actions appeared to have had no effect.
PP Then what would you say is the proper attitude for our time?
Marie-Louise: It is a much more difficult attitude, because we must unite the opposites instead of fighting for one or the other.
PP: How would that work out in reality?
How would we unite the opposites?
Marie-Louise: Never exaggerate. Even if you fight evil, do not go too far.
Do not exaggerate virtue.
When a person comes and wants you to give him 20 francs, then give him five francs-after having investigated if he uses it well.
And if he doesn’t use it well, give him nothing.
The Christian attitude would be, “If the beggar comes, I’ll give him 20 francs.”
We must be much more differentiated and watch that our virtue does not have a negative side-effect.
We must also look and see if maybe our sins have a positive side-effect [laughs heartily]-
which they sometimes have!
Donna: In Answer to Job, Jung was far ahead of his time in advocating that we integrate the good with the evil.
more of a direct arrow pointing to where the balance might be?
Marie-Louise: [Sighs] Yes.
Donna: And much of the discussions in the field of quantum physics describes how polarities are two sides of the same whole.
Is that about this same process -and the task of our time?
Mane-Louise: Yes, yes. Only in physics, the issue is morally neutral.
It is called “thinking in paradoxes,” or the “paradoxically complementary opposites”
[e.g., the wave-particle paradox].
In psychology, however, the issue becomes a moral conflict.
That makes it much more difficult.
It is easy to steal something and say, “It is good for the rich people to lose some of their money.”
But it becomes a moral conflict, and you cannot do that.
Donna: Is that why you say that we must stay in touch with our feelings and not simply with our opinions or attitudes?
We must feel the moral issue?
Marie-Louise: Yes, exactly! You feel it.
PP So, then, feeling becomes the key to much of our development of modern
Are you saying that we cannot trust our rational thinking and that we must trust our feelings more?
Would you say that our feelings are.
Donna: Haven’t you said in your writings that women have a unique obligation to follow feelings?
Marie-Louise: Well, that follows naturally.
Women do not use their possibilities enough.
We had an old maid who was a feeling type.
She was Catholic and she walked right up to a group of marching Nazis, who had interrupted a Catholic procession.
She went directly up to some of them and said, “You must not do this.”
She said it in such a friendly but such a firm way that they apologized and went away.
They were so caught by surprise that somebody had stood up for the feeling without using aggression.
She was not against them or anything.
She was just true to her own inner feelings.
Donna: And yet, so many women today try to be strong by denying their feelings instead of trusting them.
Isn’t that so?
Marie-Louise: Yes. And that is unhealthy for them.
They do harm to themselves.
Donna: In America it seems as though professional women are given freedom and equality if they promise not to be emotional.
They must become intellectual.
Marie-Louise: And yet it is right for women to be emotional.
Donna: Would you say that it is through our emotions, our feelings, that women know?
Marie-Louise: Yes, and yet women must not slip off and get caught by emotion.
The place of balance is when you can display your emotion quietly, with a strong accent, but not exaggerating it.
PP It occurs to me that what we need to do is to learn to create a safe temenos in which our feelings can be expressed-a safe personal relationship; a safe group in which we can express feeling, understanding, and confidence.
Would you agree?
Marie-Louise: Yes! It is absolutely important to establish friendships and the right marriage or contacts.
You cannot live alone.
People who live without the right contacts dream often that they are frozen in ice and snow.
They dream snow dreams.
One needs a certain human warmth.
Donna: Would you say that human warmth-if it is respectful of one’s own unique individuality and is not merely a projection-nurtures our growth and our ability to trust ourselves and our own inner feelings?
Marie-Louise: Yes, when it is the true feeling and not a projection.
NOT KNOWING IN ANALYSIS
PP: Do you feel that analysis can help to facilitate this process?
Do you still have faith in analysis? Or does analysis itself have to change?
I still have faith in analysis how I practice it.
But I don’t know how many colleagues practice it in the same way.
Some do, certainly, but not all of them.
PP Could you say something about the way you practice analysis?
Marie-Louise: To have no rules at all.
To be present with your genuine personality and have no technique and no clinical program to super impose nothing.
Permit the unconscious to take the lead!
Take a lot of trouble to understand the dreams instead of flippantly dismissing them.
Teach the patient by your own actions to trust his or her unconscious.
PP: So you are de-emphasizing technique and clinical concerns and focusing on trusting the unconscious.
Marie-Louise: I question the defense mechanisms of analysts who do not trust
themselves to meet the patient directly.
Such analysts feel inadequate, or their feeling fails, or they do not like the patient enough.
Then they put up all sorts of theoretical defenses.
PP: They use rationalistic, theoretical ideas to replace being in touch with feeling?
Marie-Louise: Yes, because it is very difficult to meet the patient naked.
PP So the therapist must be naked!
Marie-Louise: [Laughing] Yes. Jung said: “You can struggle as much as you
like, but you always end up in the same bathtub in the end.”
That is why people are frightened.
Donna: Would you say that many times we unwittingly use our professional role of “therapist” as a cover?
Marie-Louise: Yes, that is what I call defense mechanisms: pretending to know instead of admitting, as Jung sometimes admitted in my analysis with him, “I don’t know what that dream means,” or “I don’t know how we should proceed.” Jung said to me, “I am
with you in the dark-I don’t know anything. Let’s just wait for the next dream.”
Donna: So as a therapist you are modeling a process of “not knowing” and trusting the unconscious to lead the way through the darkness?
Marie-Louise: You are willing to not know, and to not be in the role of the one who knows.
The difficulty is that the patient always tries to maneuver the therapist into the role of the one who knows.
PP That is the primitive transference that Freud talked about: we look for the great mother or father.
Marie-Louise: The patient wants the therapist to make the “trick” as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
The patient says to me: “I have been working with you now for half a year and I am
You ought to have removed that!”
Then I say: “If you continue to lie to yourself, you will be depressed for another ten years!”
PP The therapist should admit his lack of knowledge and potency at times.
Marie-Louise: The therapist must be a friend who shares the trouble but does not pretend to take the lead.
Donna: Another human being?
Marie-Louise: Yes, another human being who sits in the same soup, and takes on the conflict, and tries to discover what the unconscious is leading out of itself.
Whatever leads out of the unconscious.
Donna: Come take a bath with me!
Donna: Do you think that children can come to terms with conflict earlier than in your generation or ours?
Does the individuation process begin earlier for today’s children, since they learn to verbalize their conflicts earlier?
Do they have to wait until they have lived half their lives to see the light?
Marie-Louise: As far as I see, it is individually different.
When the situation is very difficult, then the individuation process begins earlier.
But it is a symptom of being in very bad conditions.
As soon as happy conditions prevail, individuation begins later.
It is not necessarily an advantage to begin individuation early.
It may be out of despair, out of necessity.
When assaulted by outer difficulties-for instance, being raised in poverty-children grow up more quickly.
They are already adults at 10 years old.
Donna: Would you say that when life is not friendly to us and brings us conflict, something from inside us comes forth to lead us?
Marie-Louise: Yes, and we grow up more quickly.
Nature makes an effort to overcome the problem.
Donna: What do you think of the trend in this “pop” psychology in childrearing to produce perfect little children, in perfect little families, living perfectly plastic lives of normalcy?
Marie-Louise: That is sentimental nonsense.
Anyone who is halfway intelligent sees through such an illusion. That is denying feeling.
It does not make me feel good; it makes me feel sick.
PP So following conventions-even good conventions-is not the answer.
Marie-Louise: No, except for extreme weaklings-they need conventions.
SPIRITS, SOUL, P SYCHE
PP: Could you say something about your understanding of soul?
Marie-Louise: That is really difficult to do, because the word is laden with historical tradition.
Christianity deals first with soul-anima-and that complicates things.
I prefer to use the word psyche because it is less laden, and because it deals with what is alive within in contrast to what is alive outside-that is, soul.
The man has a yin soul, as the Chinese say, and that would be anima; and woman has a yang soul and that is what we call animus.
PP So are you saying that “soul” is an old-fashioned term that is more heavily laden with the idea of spirit and Christian tradition?
Marie-Louise: Yes-and with the idea of “saving your soul.”
PP Soul connotes “something outside the Self’-whereas you use the word psyche to emphasize “inner processes.”
Marie-Louise: I define psyche as being the life process as experienced from within.
Donna: And psyche means mind and body.
Marie-Louise: Within the psyche there is a certain polarity between more physical and more mental processes.
What we experience is the psyche-and all that is in between mind and body feelings,
emotions, judgments, fantasies.
PP These are all processes that mediate mind-body?
When the situation is very difficult, then the individuation begins earlier.
It is a symptom of being in very bad conditions, not necessarily an advantage.
NUMINOSUM AR CHETYPE AND LAUGHTER
PP: Where does the numinosum occur in relation to what we are discussing?
Marie-Louise: The numinosum is a thunderclap experience.
A strong emotional accent arises autonomously within us.
Donna: The “aha!”?
Marie-Louise: No! The “aha!” is an experience of realization.
The experience of the numinosum is to stand in awe when you feel you have to bend down and submit to something which is infinitely bigger than yourself.
You feel bad to have spoken and you have to shut up!
You are shut up by the numinosum!
PP How does the numinosum work for modern consciousness?
How would you define a God who speaks through the numinosum today?
Marie-Louise: The numinosum is an antique form.
It is naturally different from the Christian, because for the Christian it must be good, shiny, luminous.
But for us, the true numinosum is just as well dark, frightening, shocking, evil.
PP Its powers are beyond our ego control-what Jung would call archetypal processes.
Marie-Louise: Archetypal processes are generally numinous.
As soon as you feel them, you know “I’ll never forget them.”
Donna: You feel them in your being within, not just with your mind.
PP Today, without so much overriding dogma, do you think the numinosum can evoke new patterns of consciousness?
Marie-Louise: Yes. The difficulty is that people feel elated by the numinosum.
They feel they are “elected” because they are having the numinosum experience, and they fly off in an inflation.
PP How do we deal with that inflation?
PP: Would you say that a numinous experience always comes as a corrective for a false ego attitude?
Marie-Louise: No. It comes completely irrationally.
It comes when you are okay, and even when you are wrong.
It comes when it wants to come.
PP Is it always a message to us?
Marie-Louise: Yes. I think it is.
PP That is the art-to find out what that message is.
Marie-Louise: Yes. It can take years until one has found the message.
PP The numinosum spoke often in the lives of saints but, unfortunately, their message got pressed into the dogma of the Church.
Marie-Louise: You cannot deal with an inflation; you can only know it, or you fall into the mud at the next corner [laughs].
PP So nature cures the inflation for us by dumping us in the mud!
Donna: Our ability to laugh is one of our safeguards.
As we go through life we sometimes get a big, inflated feeling about something that usually will trip us up.
We had better be able to laugh at ourselves!
Humor can save us.
Marie-Louise: When a person can still laugh about himself, then he is not completely
For instance, Hitler could never laugh about himself.
Donna: Sometimes patients become so serious, repentant, and “born again”- they seem to become too serious and unable to laugh at themselves.
Marie-Louise: Yes. Also, some people try to laugh in a way that is negative laughing-they crack a joke in order to get rid of the conflict.
Donna: We just visited with Gerhard and Hella Adler in London.
They were upset with the idea that today, some Jungians think of the numinosum as a
“dirty word” and want to drop it and deal only with clinical issues in therapy.
Have you found this to be so?
Marie-Louise: Yes, naturally, because the numinosum, as I have tried to say, makes you modest, since it shuts you up.
Many of these psychotherapists want to do the trick themselves.
They want to be the great person who does the healing trick.
PP So we have to get that mantle of “the healer” off ourselves and give it back to the client.
Marie-Louise: The true healers know that God heals; it is not their own power.
The second-rate healer says, “Look, I have a little power-watch me-follow my prescriptions and you will be well.”
PP The path for analysts has to be one of continuing humility and openness.
Marie-Louise: Yes, and the Socratic way of learning: We know nothing; we are
surrounded by mysteries.
Human fate is not obvious.
You can look at some diagnosis and say that a patient obviously has a mother complex or is a feeling type, but those are only generalities which give you a little light.
I always think that the fate of that man or woman is a mystery to me which we have to
PP That fate is quite beyond all conventional psychiatric labels.
PP That is what many professionals have forgotten-to seek the mystery behind the apparently scientific label.
So we must be sensitive to the numinosum as an expression of the mystery of everyday life.
As you said once, ours is an evolutionary psychology; we are always looking for what is the new.
Marie-Louise: The creative view! We believe in the creativity of nature.
We believe in the creativity of the psychic background of the human condition.
PP That is our first principle, you might say-looking for the new and facilitating it.
Marie-Louise: Yes, we need to remain alert for the creative process.
Donna: How do you see this creative process occurring in society as a whole, since many people never enter analysis?
How do people grow when they are never exposed to therapy?
Marie-Louise: Being truthful to one’s feeling and meeting the numinosum is something that happens to everybody outside and inside of analysis.
RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS AND BODY LANGUAGE
Donna: Would you say that as people become disenchanted with the external religious symbols and, as has happened this year in America, the leaders of the fundamentalists groups collapse into “sin’ythat people are forced to look again within themselves for the religious symbol and stop projecting it outside?
Marie-Louise: Yes. However, I would look at every single case individually.
There are some people who still have the old faith genuinely, and there are others who use it to cover up their despair.
There are those who are quite genuine in their beliefs, and those who have a phony faith.
Donna: You are saying that those with genuine faith in their religion are still individuating in a healthy sense?
Marie-Louise: Yes, it is right for them if they are genuine.
Donna: And yet, some of us cannot believe, even if we want to.
Marie-Louise: Yes. I wanted to be confirmed because my parents wanted Confirmation,
and I agreed to it.
I did not want to take it lightly, so I made a terrific effort to believe what the parson explained; and, yet, I couldn’t understand it.
So one day he said to me, “Let’s pray.”
We got up to pray and when he began the “Our Father,” I had this sudden upset and I began vomiting.
The parson had to stop the prayer and take me to the washroom and wash me up.
It was a terrible experience.
Then I thought, “My body has just spoken-I don’t want that; I cannot swallow that.”
Donna: I had a similar experience at my First Holy Communion.
I could not swallow the host-the communion wafer. I felt so bad, so guilty.
Marie-Louise: [Laughs] Yes. The body is sometimes more truthful!
Donna: Yet when we are young, it is so confusing to sort these messages from the body when society is telling us to believe something different.
I would go to my grandmother, who didn’t believe and was the “sinner” of the family. She would give me orange juice to wash the communion down with.
Then I would have to confess.
Marie-Louise: [Laughing] Wash it down with orange juice!
That should have taught you that something was wrong.
Donna: We need to learn to listen to the body.
The body does tell us, especially in personal relationships.
PP In your experience, what does the body tell women about men?
Marie-Louise: When you don’t get “turned on” you have to think, why?
Certainly when a man gets impotent, it is very clearly his body talking.
I have told many men, “Your penis is more intelligent than you are!” [Everyone
Donna: The body also speaks to women in giving birth. It can be a glorious happening
or a disaster.
Marie-Louise: Yes, yes!
PP: How do you feel about the fact that you missed having children yourself?
Would you like to comment on that?
Marie-Louise: Yes. I could not have had children because my health was very,
very precarious all my life.
When I was young, I would have liked to marry and have children, yet I know now in
retrospect that it would have probably killed me.
So I can see that although I wanted children, it was not my destiny.
Donna: When I was young, I never thought I wanted children, particularly during those years when I was a nun.
Yet, life happened and I found myself surprised by the joy of being pregnant and having babies.
Is the answer that we must stay open to a deeper knowledge of our Self, our destiny, which may be different than what the ego wants?
Marie-Louise: Yes, we must listen to our bodies.
Donna: With today’s technological advances, many women make their decision regarding children on the basis of available birth control or abortion instead of doing that inner search.
Marie-Louise: Each is an individual case.
Every woman should listen within and she will know whether to have a child, even if illegitimately, or whether for her the answer is not to have this child.
PP: How do you feel about the issue of family planning and elective abortion in
Marie-Louise: Once again, it is an individual matter.
One woman could err in not having an abortion when her individual situation says she should.
Another woman could err by having a child when she should not.
One must stay close to feeling to know what one should do in this matter of having or not
Donna: The psyche is really that working together of mind and body.
We need to listen more closely to those feelings that come to us through our bodies.
Marie-Louise: Be true to your feelings in spite of what everyone else tells you to do.
Donna: As a woman, I experience the oneness of mind and body, spirit and matter.
I feel a spiritual movement in my body.
Even the most everyday experience of making love is truly spiritual at the same time it is physical.
The separation is not real. It is as spiritual as it is clearly physical.
Marie-Louise: Yes. I am bugged by the way some people misuse the sense of mystical coniunctio.
The alchemists and the Islamic Sufi follow the neo-Platonic pattern that you have to sublimate all personal love into the love of God, but that seems to me to be too one-sidedly spiritual and it does away too much with the personal.
It is too masculine.
What the right way would be instead is the question that bugs me.
Donna: Would you say that we transcend through a real relationship and our bodies rather than by going above and beyond them?
Marie-Louise: Yes, yes!
PP: Could you share with us your thoughts about technology and death?
Does a person have a right to “pull the plug” when someone is in a coma and appears to be merely existing as a vegetable?
Marie-Louise: That is a very complicated issue.
The person dying must stay in touch with his own dreams.
The doctor must stay in touch with his dreams.
The family members must stay in touch with their dreams.
We can only know what to do in these kinds of situations by going beyond our egos and
delving deep into the Self in order to be in touch with our feelings and with what
is in harmony with the true Self.
Donna: Do you find that your body is more sensitive as you grow older?
Marie-Louise: Oh, yes, very much.
Especially since I am ill, I am oversensitive.
You get weaker, and so your body is a more sensitive instrument.
When you are young, you can be tough and go above things.
At my current age, when people behave in an unfriendly or tactless manner, it now takes much more out of me.
When I was young I would say, “Oh, the hell with them” and walk off.
But now I am more sensitive.
That is why I have eliminated a lot of people from my circle who just rubbed me the
When you are old, you have the right to have around you the people you like and to dismiss the others!
For instance, you always meet in life ungenuine people and people who are crooks
and try to cheat you.
I cannot accept them anymore. I get seasick and I throw them out!
Donna: You don’t want to waste your time with them.
Marie-Louise: That’s right!
You have so little time left that you want to make it all a peak experience.
Donna: “Older is better” if we become more expedient and don’t waste time.
Marie-Louise: Yes. When you are young, you have eternity before you and you dawdle and waste it on childish nonsense [laughing].
Donna: As you get older, do you feel more aloof!
Marie-Louise: This is not something you should tell people-but there is a certain natural process which makes you detached.
Sometimes people fuss around me about nonsense and I feel not an aloofness but a genuine detachment.
I think, “That’s not worth fussing about.”
But I think that the detachment should not be preached. It comes naturally, if it comes.
Donna: Do you find yourself thinking about death? What do you think death is?
Marie-Louise: When I wrote the book, On Dreams and Death [1986, Shambala], I thought about it day and night, but now I think about the coniunctio.
PP Tell us some of your thoughts about the coniunctio, if you can.
Marie-Louise: Well, I am puzzled, and it is bugging me.
PP Would you say that “bugging” is a regular part of the creative process for you? Something needs to bug you before you get up the energy to write?
Marie-Louise: It is the premonition of creativity.
You are pregnant with something new but you aren’t giving birth yet.
So I am like a poor woman with a heavy belly who cannot sleep on her back or her side, and who cannot get up the stairs.
PP It is uncomfortable.
Perhaps that is why some people are not willing to go through that creative process?
Marie-Louise: Yes, it is very uncomfortable.
PP One of the areas I am exploring right now involves our psychobiological rhythms-that every hour-and-a-half we need to take a rest-and if we don’t take that rest, then we stress ourselves.
Do you find that?
Marie-Louise: Yes, now that I am old, I find it to be so.
When I was young, I raced like a steam engine-but I cannot anymore.
I have to take a rest. Oh, yes.
When you do not rest and you push yourself too far, you become sloppy and must go all over it again!