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Books: The Dark & Light of Dreams

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MEMORIES, DREAMS, REFLECTIONS (398 pp.)—C. G. Jung—Pantheon ($7.50).

The dreamer was three years old and he loved the gentleman Jesus. Then came his dream of the phallus-king. The dreamer wandered through a stone palace under the meadow, and there, behind a curtain heavy as earth, stood the king, his one good eye gleaming up from his faceless head. “That is the man-eater!” the dreamer’s mother cried out to him in the dream—but did she mean the king or did she mean Jesus? From that night on, the dreamer could never find comfort in Jesus’ name. The sound of it flooded him with his frightful revelation: the phallic king of underground terror and the good Lord Jesus were both, somehow, the same.

In dreams, Carl Jung found a window to his “dark side,” and, encouraged by the visionary knowledge that invaded his earliest nights, he never abandoned it in all his 85 years. Dreams became for him the stuff that life is made of, “the inner happenings that make up the singularity of my life.” In his posthumously published autobiography, Jung ignores the outer events of his life for fear of obscuring the importance of its dreams. In the telling, the dreams become fascinating insights into Jung’s thought, and the book becomes an adventurous example of the psychoanalytic monologue, in which events must be deciphered from the hieroglyphic language of the unconscious.

Jung rarely bothers to pursue an idea much past the bellwether dream that gave it birth. The fault of the introvert (a word Jung coined) is a reluctance to consider the significance of life in any terms but his own, and it is a fault that becomes the very spirit of Jung’s book. The only encounter of his life he discusses in detail is his stormy meeting with Freud, to whom Jung pays the compliment of a full chapter (Jung’s wife of 52 years is scarcely mentioned).

Blue Mountain Air. Long before his quiet death in the summer of 1961, Jung (TIME cover, Feb. 14, 1955) had quietly abandoned his century. With Freud and Adler, he had brought the Western world to the Age of Analysis. He was the last survivor of psychiatry’s presiding trinity, but he forced himself back from the darkening spirit of his science. He studied ancient cultures and tribes, myths and symbols and alchemy, and from the overpowering sense of nostalgic recognition his studies brought him, he fashioned a new psychology that served him as a shield against Freud’s disturbing ideas. To counter Freud’s concept of man as an imperiled witness to the struggle between the sexuality and aggression within him, Jung produced a theory of the unconscious that showed each man to be a cultural museum filled with ancient wisdoms, beauty and God. “He has,” says J. B. Priestley, the gentle anarchist, “cleared a way through dark jungles into blue mountain air. He has discovered at least one way out of the nightmare maze in which modern Western man was beginning to lose himself.”

For all that, few latter-day psychoanalysts take Jung seriously, save for his early studies in word association and schizophrenia. The weight of his immense influence remains outside his science: clergymen are encouraged by his recognition of God (whom Freud considered a creation of man’s imagination); esthetes and classicists are enriched by his devoted studies of art and symbol (to Freud, expressions of neurotic conflict); and spiritualists of all varieties take heart from his recognition of occult happenings (to Freud, nonsense).

Caesar’s Curse. Jung’s encounter with Freud was less a clash of intellects than a crash of personalities. Freud, Jewish and Austrian, thought at first that Jung, Swiss and Christian, was just the man to inherit leadership of the psychoanalytic movement and broaden it, and for a few years their association was close. But Jung’s own thoughts soon diverged from Freud’s, and with surprising pugnacity, the two analysts began their attacks on each other. Jung, in this book, prefers to discuss the conflict mainly in terms of the salient dreams that defined it for him. Whenever the two got together to swap dreams, Freud would invariably find parricidal elements in Jung’s dream scenes. Freud, Jung says, began to smother him with paternalism—Freud the Father, Jung the Son—but he was obsessed with the idea that there was murder in Jung’s heart. Once, when Jung told Freud of a dream in which he had seen two skulls, Freud nervously demanded to know whose they were. “My wife and my sister-in-law,” Jung recalls lying. “After all, I had to name someone whose death was worth the wishing!”

When Jung at last dared to challenge Freud’s early-libido theory (that neurosis results from sexual trauma in childhood), Jung recalls that Freud fainted dead away at the threat to his authority. Having lost his God, Jung says, Freud had made an even more terrible god out of sexuality. “Sexuality evidently meant more to Freud than to other people,” Jung wrote. “For him it was something to be religiously observed.” To Jung, Freud was a tragic figure—an authoritarian beset with the curse of the Caesars, a hollow old man haunted by obsessions. At last, Jung dreamed of Freud conclusively: he saw him dressed in the uniform of an imperial Austrian customs inspector.

Jung notes that nothing is a clearer symbol of peevish authority than a customs inspector—but that is only half the dream. Readers who respect the power of a pun are free to ponder which of his customs Jung didn’t want Freud inspecting, and as far as Jung’s critics are concerned, that is the heart of the matter. For how else account for a man whose method in science was often to find enlightenment in a dream, pronounce the dream a hypothesis, then dream it ten times over again, and announce the establishment of a theory? Delving into his own unconscious (he once took years off from his lecturing at the University of Zurich in order to devote himself to replaying the games of his childhood in the hope of finding clues to the riddle of his psyche), Jung often seemed in flight from his times, in flight from science, in flight from Freud.

Flying Saucers. His fancies led him everywhere. He went to Uganda to study the noble savages and swing their rhinoceros whips. He went to New Mexico, and while listening to the words of a Taos Indian chief, began for the first time to wonder about the morality of the Crusades. Everywhere he went he detected a “faint note of foolishness” clinging to his European clothes. To Jung, that was proof enough that Western man had “plunged down a cataract of progress,” drawing him away from the unfinished business of the Middle Ages, the last age when man nakedly confronted the issues of good, evil and his God before he was distracted by material progress. But perhaps the feeling of foolishness was nothing more than the stirrings of the sexual embarrassment that Freudians think drove him away from his science in the first place.

His notion of man as the dreamer of age-old dreams led him into a mystic world. His life was plagued by occult phenomena (poltergeists threw his books about; blinding pain awakened him at the instant a patient was committing suicide), and his dreams even came to include flying saucers. In the morning he would ponder: perhaps the flying saucer is a magic lantern, and I—I am only the picture it projects.

All his life he felt most at home in the 16th century, and to recapture a time unscarred by “the deceptive sweetenings of existence,” he built a round stone tower at Bollingen on Lake Zurich, where he comforted himself in total anachronism. Eager in his old age to chip into stone the thoughts that had escaped him on paper, he surrounded his tower with totems and painstakingly carved stone tablets, and over his door he carved his final confession of faith: “Called or Not Called, God Is Present.” Tourists taking their holiday on the lake often saw him, as their boats passed by, dozing and dreaming in his field of stone totems.

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