Memories, Dreams, Reflections
“We are very far from having finished completely with the Middle
Ages, classical antiquity, and primitivity, as our modern psyches pretend… But it is precisely the loss of connection with the past, our uprootedness, which has given rise to the ‘discontents’ of civilization.

“Unfortunately, the mythic side of man is given short shrift nowadays.
He can no longer create fables. As a result, a great deal escapes him; for it is important and salutary to speak also of incomprehensible things.

The more the critical reason dominates, the more impoverished life becomes; but the more of the unconscious, and the more of myth we are capable of making conscious, the more of life we integrate.

In a nutshell
Modern life must be enriched by an awareness of dreams, an appreciation of myth, and a sense of mystery.

In a similar vein
William James The Varieties of Religious Experience (p. 130) James Redfield The Celestine Prophecy (p. 210) Gary Zukav The Seat of the Soul (p. 306) Joseph Campbell (with Bill Moyers) The Power of Myth (50SHC) James Hillman The Soul’s Code (50SHC) Thomas Moore Care of the Soul (50SHC)



Carl Gustav Jung


ost autobiographies cover the main events of the author’s life, with the reader often left with only glimpses of the inner life. Carl Jung’s autobiographical Memories, Dreams, Reflections, in contrast, focuses on the great psychologist’s spiritual and intellectual awakenings. The descriptions of his visions, dreams, and fantasies, which he considered his “greatest wealth,” fill the book; this he did not for indulgence’s sake, but because he considered them the prism through which he could perceive the collective psyche of humankind. Memories, Dreams, Reflections is controversial because it was still in manuscript form when Jung died, and required further editing to become the final version. But it found the popular audience that Jung had always hoped for, and inspired many people to become psychoanalysts. Like a Christmas cake, it will be too rich and dense for some; for others it may inspire a life-long interest in Jungian psychology, which aims to reveal the spiritual forces that lie behind the science of the mind and personality.

Jung and God
Other volumes carry Jung’s thoughts on mythological and psychological concepts such as the “God-image,” but Memories, Dreams, Reflections, according to its editor Aniela Jaffe, is Jung’s “religious testament” to the world, the only occasion on which he really talked about his personal experience of God. Both sides of Jung’s family had been pastors and theologians, and his father was a rather doctrinaire minister. In this environment Jung naturally grew up dwelling on religious issues. The God he imagined was not personal or enlightening, but simply represented the power of the universe in all its light, darkness, chance, and infiniteness. Through dreams he felt led to the conclusion that God actually wants us to think 137


“bad thoughts,” thoughts that go against established morality, so that we can make our way independently back to God. He felt that the truly spiritual person is a free thinker who demands experience of God rather that mere faith. This idea of the divine as not all sweetness and light, and his belief that Christianity had never been able to deal satisfactorily with the question of evil, put Jung at odds with orthodox Christianity. Yet he considered himself a Christian, and in 1952 wrote to a clergyman, “I find that all my thoughts circle around God like the planets around the sun, and are irresistibly attracted by Him.” Everyone has religious ideas in them, Jung believed, feelings about the infinite or intimations of greater meaning. He had observed that those who shut them out often developed neuroses, yet such people would not have been “divided against themselves” if they had lived in an earlier time, in which their lives would have been closely tied to myth, ritual, and nature. Modern people are too objective, he wrote, their spiritual horizons too narrow; many lives are lived almost entirely on the plane of the conscious, rational mind. Were they to close the gap between their ego and unconscious minds, Jung believed, people would return to full mental health. His experience with psychiatric patients led him to believe that the psyche is by nature religious, and that the spiritual dimension is a basic element in psychology. Though we normally think of him as a psychoanalyst, Jung’s larger quest in his work was definitely spiritual, and in a time of scientific materialism this made his ideas resonate. Asked in a television interview whether he believed in God, Jung replied: “I don’t believe—I know.”

Integrating the self
When Jung was at university in Zurich, he decided to specialize not in internal medicine, his original choice, but psychiatry, then a new and somewhat dubious field. In 1900, he began work as an assistant at the Burhölzli mental hospital in Zurich. At this time, psychiatrists were strangely uninterested in what went through a patient’s mind. The emphasis was on symptoms and making a diagnosis. As Jung puts it, “the human personality of the patient, his individuality, did not matter at all.” Both Freud and Jung went against scientific opinion by being interested in the whole person, not simply their medical conditions, and 138


Jung’s first book, on the psychology of schizophrenia, aimed to show that delusions and hallucinations were not simply random symptoms of disease but were closely related to the patient’s personality. The goal of what Jung termed “individuation” was the uniting of inner opposites, or recognizing the many contradictions within ourselves. This self-knowledge would allow a sense of unity of purpose about our life and our personality to emerge. Jung recounted that as a boy, he realized that there were two basic aspects to a person’s being, which he termed personality No. 1 (what we usually think of as the self) and personality No. 2 (the “other”). His own No. 1 was the boy who did his homework and got into fights, but he also sensed a No. 2 that rested on a “timeless, imperishable stone” of wisdom. Jung went out of his way to listen to this part of himself because he felt it to be his most valuable, and his lifetime’s work in exploring the various sides and dimensions of the self means that today we are not afraid of talking about this No. 2 personality (variously called the “shadow,” the “higher self,” and the “true self”). We appreciate that its integration is necessary for mental health. Without such integration, we tend to project onto other people or things what we do not recognize in ourselves, with often harmful consequences.

Freud and beyond
At their first meeting in Vienna in 1907, Freud and Jung talked for 13 hours straight. In Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung describes Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams as “epoch making,” and states, “By evaluating dreams as the most important source of information concerning the unconscious processes, he [Freud] gave back to mankind a tool that had seemed irretrievably lost.” Their famous split came about because Jung could not accept Freud’s belief that most human behavior and any instance of the spiritual in art or in a person was the result of “repressed sexuality.” From Jung’s point of view Freud, who so abhorred the religious impulse, wanted to turn his scientific ideas into a religion. “When I parted from Freud,” Jung writes, “I knew that I was plunging into the unknown. Beyond Freud, after all, I knew nothing; but I had taken the step into the darkness.” In this darkness Jung would develop many of his now famous ideas. Though he coined the psychological terms “complex,” “introvert,” and 139


“extravert,” he went out on more of a limb with his idea of the “collective unconscious,” a larger human mind of which every individual is a part, manifested in the images, symbols, dreams, and myths that seemed to emerge in all cultures. He also developed the concept of “archetypes,” ways of being or acting that people unthinkingly adopt but that are also patterns in this broader collective psyche. Another of Jung’s famous ideas, “synchronicity” or the occurrence of seemingly meaningful coincidences that go beyond the realms of normal probability, suggested a universe in which the boundaries that humans normally perceive between mind and matter may in some circumstances fell away. Synchronicity is now a key concept in the New Age movement (see James Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy, p. 210), but was also given credence by Jung’s friend, Nobel physicist Wolfgang Pauli. Jung was equally interested in numerology, particularly the significance in art and mythology of the number four, and became a scholar of alchemy, Gnosticism and the Bible. He understood the real meaning of alchemy not as turning ordinary metals into gold, but as the transformation of the psyche, an awakening. In 1913, Jung had a powerful vision of all the land between the North Sea and the Alps being flooded. On closer inspection the water was shown to be blood, in which floated the drowned bodies of millions. At first he thought this indicated that a revolution would take place, then it dawned on him that the Great War was about to break out in Europe. Jung’s personal powers of precognition led to his delving into parapsychology, and the credence that he gave, as a scientist, to nonphysical causality was met with derision by Freud. Only time will tell whether Jung or Freud was right on these non-traditional areas of science, but it is reasonable to say that Jung’s star has risen in the last few decades, while much of Freud’s thought has been reassessed.

Final comments
Jung admitted that his “mythologizing” gave life a glamor that, once experienced, was difficult to do without. But then, he asked, why should we do without it? To the intellect, matters to do with dreams and the unconscious may seem like a waste of time, but if they enrich our emotional lives and heal a divided mind, surely they are valuable. If we have a purely rational, artless existence, never taking account of our dreams or fantasies, we become one-dimensional. In seeking perfect 140


explanations, we never dwell on the “incomprehensible things,” as Jung described the mysteries of time and space; yet that which is mysterious also gives meaning to life. If you are tired of the shallowness of materialist, consumer culture, this book may be exactly what you need. Jung’s account of travels in Africa, America, India, and Italy are fascinating, as is the chapter on the tower house he built at Bollingen on the shores of Lake Zurich to get away from it all. The descriptions of dreams and visions that appear throughout the work will not hold everyone’s attention, but for many they will spark a new interest in the unconscious mind as a provider of guidance and wisdom.

Carl Gustav Jung
Jung was born in Kesswil, Switzerland, in 1875, the son of a Protestant minister. In 1895 he enrolled at the University of Basel to study medicine, and when his father died the following year had to borrow money to remain a student. He began to specialize in psychiatry, and from 1900 worked at the Burhölzli clinic in Zurich under the pioneering psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler. In 1903 he married Emma Rauschenbach, a Swiss heiress. Under Swiss law Jung had access to her fortune, and they built a large house in Kusnacht for their young family. In 1905 Jung became lecturer in psychiatry at the University of Zurich, and the same year senior lecturer at the Psychiatric Clinic, a post he relinquished in 1909 due to a burgeoning private practice. Jung was a prolific writer. His books include The Psychology of the Unconscious, Psychology and Religion, Psychology and Alchemy, and The Undiscovered Self. Many writings are included in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung. He died in 1961. 141

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful