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999 encounters

Encounters with C. G. Jung: The Journal of Sabi Tauber (1951–1961)

999 tabuber letter

Bollingen, July 8, 1951

Dear Frau Doctor!

It would be possible for me to see you next Friday afternoon. There is a train arriving at 2:40 in Bollingen.

From the station you walk along the Seestrasse up the lake, past the church of Bollingen.

After about another 600 meters there will be a railroad crossing (“crossing prohibited”!) with barriers.

There you cross and go down, past a house in a garden, then you come to a garage.

There you go to the right down to the lake. You won’t see a house.  It is hidden in the trees.

Yours sincerely

C.G. Jung

I was standing at the lake with this letter in my hot fist, one hour too early.

A few meters to the right, between dense green branches, a charming old wooden door was beckoning.

I had to clench the other hand into a fist as well. What was the matter with me?

After all, I wasn’t that young any more, with five children, a beloved husband – and a heavy backpack full of problems.

But waiting for a whole hour in front of this door would have been asking too much.

By now I knew myself well enough to question the state of mind I would have been in thereafter.

Hie Rhodus, hie salta! flashed through my mind.

I quickly stripped my clothes, hid them behind a bush, and swam out into the wonderfully cool lake.

Farther and farther – I had a whole hour – just become as cool and light and gray as the water!

But I got tired.

Turning around, I could see the gray tower at the shore, thick stone walls, and a thicket of shrubbery, but also, to my horror, a sailboat landing exactly at the spot where I had hidden my clothes. I held out for a while longer in the lake, but my strength was vanishing fast, and my conscience was calling time.

How utterly silly I felt, slipping hurriedly past a group of men and disappearing in the bushes!

I didn’t look back, but I could discern very well the one deep, thundering bass among their voices, and that one seemed to come closer.

In a mad rush I slipped into my clothes, barely minding the red ants that had crawled in there – a far cry from the serene and quiet countenance with which I had intended to present the many questions I had pondered for so long.

“Ah, so that was you?! Well, there is no more escaping now; please follow me right away!”

The voice thundered beside me like the last judgment, but the hand held out for a greeting was thoroughly benevolent, steady and calming to my trembling nerves.

The scenery of the strangely-funny “men’s group” indulging in an opulent vesper meal within the strong walls of this fort belonged to the image that unfolded in my soul with glowing colors.

“Why didn’t you come long ago? Could I have been any nicer to you people? I had to pull you by the hair.

One can feel such a thing. After all, we are all connected underneath, and whoever can dive has a felt sense for others in a wide circumference. In the future, see to it that my soul can be at ease within its field of vision and come sooner if things are not going well!”

While lecturing me thus, his eyes nevertheless were resting on me with so much warmth and benevolence that I was completely comfortable, in spite of the felt sense that he knew everything about my soul already, and more than I did myself.

It was right for him to know and that now everything, as it were, belonged to him.

Then I remembered my severely ill, dying mother at home, and I told Jung my dream:

Outside the Door of the tower in Bollingen

Jung stood tall in front of me and made the sign of the cross with a broad, all-encompassing gesture.

Behind him was an age-old menacing crone, and beside me my husband’s anima.

Only with Jung’s gesture did the two women became visible, and at the same time his gesture protected me against them.

The danger of the dark mother was within me, he said.

But I was not to crawl into the dark earth and get stuck in there; rather, I was to

wriggle through it cunningly and smartly.

That’s what one should be able to do! Movement, not paralysis! Vorwarts ist alles!

Darkness wouldn’t want to swallow up the light, otherwise it would cease to exist as well.

Right here, on these shores, he once had witnessed a fish jumping out of the water before being swallowed by a snake.

But then the fish got stuck in the throat of the snake and both died.

Mother cannot swallow father, lest she dies too!

The question arose from within me, “how did you withstand the great darkness?”

Jung’s voice was calm when he replied, “I wasn’t always able to.

But because I surrendered to the darkness, it released me again. You have to be more honest!

Pay attention to every movement of the soul, look at it, and be lovingly creative with it.

A noli me tangere attitude makes one dumb and unrelated. True relationship enriches.

To engage in a short-circuited sexual liaison leaves one poor and dumb – one has cheated oneself.

If other people’s wings are lame, leave them behind; you two are to fly on nevertheless. The true spirit, as it lives for example in the / Ching – clear and yet cunning; clever and wise; open and yet hidden – this spirit helps in dreams and in daily reality to break the spell of the dark mother.”

After that, he showed me with great satisfaction the entire fortress he had built with his own hands. In the room up in the tower, however, silence fell upon us; it spoke in its own language, one of the hardest works in the great darkness, of surrender, despair, and of sacred prayer. Heavy steps went ahead of mine, back down the steep, winding staircase.

This hunched-over back, how wonderfully strong it must have carried, a lifetime!

Jung accompanied me back out into the world, switching to a lighter, conversational tone, as if to cover the deep experience with a silky veil.

“Will I succeed with this, my life?” I asked, barely audible. “I certainly would say so!” he thundered, piercing me with his steady gaze. “Only the shock of your own splendor might be too much! But never again are you to swim that far out into the lake. You are in danger, and you must know that.”

Jul 13, 1951

He touched me

and brought me to the place

where one takes one’s life in hand

and trusts that it may succeed.

He protects me against the power

of the Great Mother,

not overwhelmingly seriously; he even laughed!

Such is the true spirit!

And so that I’ll always know

I was allowed to see his best attire:

his humanity.

Please, let me never forget him!

Then, in the great darkness,

I will never drown.

On 11 August, 1951, my mother died.

During her last and most difficult days, my youngest, my baby, lay in the cradle next to her bed and made cheerful little noises.

It must have appeared like a little angel to my mother, who wouldn’t turn her eyes away.

Now mother is an angel herself, helping us from the other side.

28 1951

Mother! Dear!

I pick it up and carry it with joy!

You had to go

and left us

that, which on this earth

still needs to be accomplished.

I hold it sacred and work on it

as much as I can.

Dear God, help me along!

so that, when you will call, it shall be done!

Next to mother’s obituary there was a beautiful quote from the poet


Unser ganzes Leben ist ein nie wiederkehrender Geburtstag der Ewigkeit, den wir darum freudiger und heiliger begehen sollten.

Summer was warm and imbued with intimacy, especially early morning with the pearls of dew on mother’s grave.

Planting her gravesite became my innermost, sacred joy.

It was as if through this work her essence would open within me like a flower.

In my daily life, ever so often I was able to take a tricky emotional situation as a welcome opportunity to live through it fully.

Thus, I sometimes would sit at my baby girl’s cradle singing softly to her, precisely when the daily workload was heaviest.

And my mother seemed to thank me.

Or I would play the piano instead of doing the bookkeeping – and life became large and wide.

And yet, by the same measure that time merged with eternity, there was an urgent voice within me: “It’s later than you think, make use of your time!”

When could I go see the old wise man again? How? Never without having done my work.

I forced myself to write down a meditation on the /Ching,# 50 Ting, “The Cauldron,” then I asked for another session.

Again, there was a gentle smile in his answer, “why not any sooner?”

It made me sad, thinking how poorly I was able to “dive” and feel the underneath connection.

Did he even know how difficult it was for me to live “right”? How much I craved to launch into an inspiring spiritual task – or, just as wonderful and engaging, to simply live according to my feelings, free and unbound like a bird!

Against those urges stood everyday life with its many petty chores and obligations. Neglecting those, however, rendered spiritual work and living my feeling impossible.

“Is there a path here?”

I asked the Great One faintheartedly, on a gray November evening.

Jung answered mildly, telling me matter-of-factly about the almost unbearable challenge of his destiny:

For the past 150 years, the ancestors on his mother’s side had been ministers, on father’s side physicians.

He had to take on the issues from both sides and solve them! In addition, there was the problem of the body and soul.

“Often it is the dead ones who are calling on us with their questions and problems.

Everything spiritual comes from that realm.

Each one takes on his ancestors and passes himself on to the next generation with one’s own solution.

To find the right way between the calling of our destiny and the tasks of everyday life is very difficult.

Weekdays, this is what you do: in the morning you sort out the very urgent from the urgent.

The question is: is it better that I do very little for only a few people, or that I die from exhaustion and not be able to do anything for anybody anymore?

One has to bear the fact that one cannot do justice to everybody.

Then you make a program for the day and hold on to it ritually!

By all means, one has to fight every day for one’s own free time to restore libido within, otherwise one perishes in today’s fast paced, empty rushing.

I for one don’t go to concerts or the theatre anymore in the evenings.

Try to have your kids in bed by 8 pm, and from 8 to 10 pm the time belongs to you and your creativity.

Be consistent!

But at 10 pm you ritually wrap up and go to bed, otherwise the body gets abused.

Discipline makes happy.

In your own evening time, you fulfill the demand of your destiny, and thereby think of Confucius’ little story:

A man fell into a torrent and was carried along in the roaring waters.

Further down the river became very quiet. There, the man simply climbed on shore again and walked on.

30 1951

There are times when one has to let oneself be swallowed up by the Great Mother, so that she can spit one out again!

That’s rebirth and regeneration.

People who have a lot of contact with others have to be ready for this sort of regeneration, otherwise they perish!”

I had sent my little essay on the / Ching ahead of time and now asked him for his opinion.

“It is good,” he said, “because you saw the essence, and you didn’t speculate too much.

An intuitive has a much more difficult time to cut his wings and stay close to reality.

If he doesn’t, it’s all up in the air, and a depression will surely follow.

He ventures into a cave without a light and a rope, and that is too dangerous.

Thinking is the light and rope for an intuitive to enter into the cave.

Each idea needs scientific validation, and a manuscript has to be read and criticized by ten friends before submitting it for publication.

This is intellectual rigor!

Because I feel responsible I read all manuscripts that are sent to me,

even though the burden of my work almost crushes me.”

Winter brought long, dark nights. My dreams became heavy and puzzling.

But the Old Wise Man kept his promise about the open door.

Shortly before Christmas he enlightened me with his comments to the following dreams:

Jung secretly whispered a name for me in my ear. Nobody else knew the name; it was sacred.

Jung commented that he, or the Old Wise Man, gives me my name in place of God, which only he and I know, so that I may recognize God and he recognizes me.

Consequently, I have become an individual and thus capable of a Visio Dei.

This is why baptism of newborns is so important, so that they are known by God and have a vision of God if they die early.

There are primitives who have two names: an ordinary name and a secret one, only known to the medicine man.

Nobody else may know it, lest the person be bewitched!

With the name-giving, God bestows his mana (numinous power) onto the soul.

In an Eskimo custom, a louse of the grandfather is put onto the newborn’s head; in that way mana is being transmitted.

The self is being crystallized in the name.

One should not give children too exotic, unusual names (parents perhaps indulging a pathological fancy), so that they don’t have to be ‘hopeless individualists’ without real mana for this world.

(2) After an operation to remove my tonsils I was laying on a bed, weak and tired.

A monster was sitting on top of me, sucking my blood at the sutures.

I was the only one to see the monster, nobody else could.

But I was unable to talk, so I wrote onto a piece of paper that only Jung could help me.

He came, detected the lesion, and told the doctors exactly where another suture was needed.

After that, healing occurred.

Jung: “A tonsillectomy is needed when external poison combined with our own, inner poison becomes one source of poison.

Such a monster is very dangerous, for as soon as it is finished with its victim, it goes on to the next one, that is, such a libido-drain into the unconscious ‘spreads’ and endangers your husband and your children!

One becomes the monster, because the libido flows backwards into oneself.

The lesion in your case is the inferior, negative intuition.

It should lead positively to your feeling, but instead your intuition cuts the feeling off negatively.

The blood empties toward the inside and worthlessly seeps away, instead of pouring out into a creative act, full of joy and strength!

For example, a famous, formerly very creative composer came to see me, complaining that he could no longer compose.

It turned out that he had a patroness who gifted him much money and a villa.

Then she stopped, and he could compose again.

The money from outside had plugged up his creative source.

In your case, the negative intuition is blocking the natural stream of feeling, threatening death.

Open the floodgates and pour out your feelings!

Venture into life; get a positive attitude!”

It was as if Jung would throw a golden ball into the depth of my ‘inner fountain.’ Through him I experienced God. He said that he didn’t ‘believe’ – he ‘knew.’

And I know now firmly through him.

(3) I wanted to cross a lake together with my youngest child, to go to a chapel on the other side.

Suddenly, a high wave ripped my child away and carried it out into the lake. (I woke up horrified.)

Jung: “Well, this is wintertime, when Demeter has to cede her child to Pluto.

The River god has kidnapped the child; it’s his turn .

You have to say yes to that; you have to let it be winter, give yourself to the River god – only then can it be spring again, rebirth.

And besides, you don’t have to ‘endure’ it; precisely not to endure, rather, you have to let yourself be overwhelmed, for he is greater than you – he is God!

The meaning lies in the wave flooding you.

Not that you have to overcome the unconscious; the unconscious has to overcome you.

It’s an amazing grace to be chosen to become Pluto’s mother-in-law, and it is a fabulous honor to be personally called by the River god!

God needs the child part-time, because he has to restore its mana, renew its divine nature, therefore it is the divine child.

The youngest daughter symbolizes one’s own future, which one can never fully experience because one dies before that.

The other half of the daughter belongs to the Other.”

(See also the lshtar-Tammuz legend).

(4) A timeless wanderer was walking with me through the ages.

He showed me ancient carpets and marvels from all over the world, saying that they all belonged to me, for my great-grandfather on mother’s side had been a vagabond.

Jung: “We all are pilgrims. We should not be all that attached to this world. A tramp is unbound; he is only a visitor on this earth; his home is in the beyond. The dream tells you: This is what you carry within -know and appreciate it!”

999 rivergod

(5) The River god emerged from the river and called me.

Jung: “Don’t let the River god wait! It is a distinctive honor to be called. A primitive would become chief because of it. With every experience of God our understanding grows, and we become capable of greater things. The self doesn’t give us tasks we can’t do. One cannot write and speak of everything about God, but between two people one can feel it.”

Wie auch die Welt ihm das Gefuhl verteure, Ergriffen fuhlt er tief das Ungeheure.

Deep down in his eyes I recognized the Rivergod – and drowned in him.

“Now I could put a spell on you, since I know your name!” sounded the deep voice.

I only nodded, for it had already happened. But he continued, “I’m not so sure, perhaps it’s you who are bewitching me at the moment.”

I burst out laughing, which made him say very earnestly, “See, you’d be delighted!” I was alarmed.

Once again, the experience of the encounter was so big that I could barely tolerate it. Nudging me gently back into reality, he said soberly, “When people are coming to me with red cheeks, bright eyes, and warm hands, then I know that they have put a considerable stream of libido into our meeting and it becomes a deeply meaningful experience, effective and valuable. With averted gaze, a pale face, and cold hands nothing happens; you put nothing into it and get nothing out of it.”

The day had started gray and foggy; now the world lay before us in a golden robe of sunlight. It was such a gift.

The Rivergod, I didn’t let him wait, he didn’t have patience either.

I danced with him and lived him fully and he bestowed on me his wreath divine for a new life!

No wonder, then, that Maya casts her nets and slings to entangle me in everyday life. It virtually hailed conflicts.

They weren’t exactly put at my feet; they pierced my heart. ~Sabi Tauber: Encounters with Jung, Page 23-35