Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung

Carl Jung sees his life as a story of the self-realization of the unconscious which he describes in this book. He starts out with “First Years” and describes his outward memories on how he became conscious of smelling, when he saw the Alps the first time, how he found pleasure in water and how he became aware of his parents’ troubled marriage. He continues with his inward memories and recalls his very first dream and describes why a number of childhood memories have made a lifelong impression on him.

He continues to describe his “School Years” including a very important event at the age of twelve which made him understand what a neurosis is.  In this chapter he also shares that he was convinced from childhood that he had two personalities — a modern Swiss citizen and a personality more at home in the eighteenth century. “Personality Number 1,” as he termed it, was a typical schoolboy living in the era of the time, while “Personality Number 2” was a dignified, authoritative and influential man from the past.  He further discusses his thoughts about God and said that it seemed to him that it is one’s duty to explore daily the will of God. He shares with the readers that in the course of his life it has often happened to him that he knew suddenly something, which he really could not know at all, and that the knowledge came to him as though it were his own idea.

In the chapter about his “Student Years” he says, “Although we human beings have our own personal life, we are yet in large measure the representatives, the victims and promoters of a collective spirit whose years are counted in centuries”.  Here he also explains how important “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” by Nietzsche and “Faust” by Goethe were for him and why. He explains when and how it became clear to him that the only possible goal to him was psychiatry and that it was his “fate” even though this area of medicine was looked down upon at that time.

In the chapter about “Psychiatric Activities” he recalls the most interesting and most important cases for him and his realization that he “could not treat latent psychoses if he did not understand their symbolism.” That was why he began to study mythology.  In addition he emphasizes that a psychotherapist has to understand himself and that a doctor will only be able to teach a patient to heal himself if he knows how to cope with himself.  He shares some of his dreams here as well.

He dedicates a whole chapter to “Sigmund Freud” and their relationship and explains in detail why he broke with him.  In the appendix some of the letters Freud wrote to Jung can be found.  In this chapter he recalls a dream that led him for the first time to the concept of the “collective unconscious”.

In the chapter “Confrontations with the Unconscious” he explains the concepts of anima and animus, as well as individuation – a psychological process of integrating the opposites including the conscious with the unconscious while still maintaining their relative autonomy, necessary for a person to become whole. In his opinion, people who have advanced towards individuation tend to be harmonious, mature and responsible. They embody humane values such as freedom and justice and have a good understanding about the workings of human nature and the universe.

In the chapter “The Work” he shares his research and findings about alchemy and his thoughts about Jesus. It is his belief that “it is God who created the world and its sins, and who therefore become Christ in order to suffer the fate of humanity.”

In the next chapters he tells the readers about the “Tower” he built and lived in, his “Travels” to the U.S., India and Africa.  For me the most important statements were “Everything that irritates us about othersCompare with A New Earth under Spiritual Development can lead us to an understanding of ourselves” and that “The longing for light is the longing for consciousness”.

My favorite chapter was “Visions” which starts with a description of an illness and a near death experience. He had visions after that followed by a fruitful period.  At that time he also had an affirmation of things as they are: “an unconditional acceptance of conditions of existence as I see them and understand them, acceptance of my own nature, as I happen to be.”  He also realizes “that when one follows the path of individuationCompare with Depth Psychology, when one lives one’s own life, one must take mistakes into the bargain; life would not be complete without them”. And it was only after the illness that he understood how important it is to affirm one’s own destiny.

In the next chapter he elaborates about “Life after Death”. He sees rationalism and doctrinism as a disease of our time because they pretend to have all the answers and admits that he does not know for what reason the universe has come into being.  He points to the fact that the unconscious helps by communicating things to us and explains that he speaks of inner promptings when it comes to things after death and that he can go no further then to tell us dreams and myths that relate to this subject.  Based on dreams he understands that the souls of the dead “know” only what they knew at the moment of death, and nothing beyond that. He defines myth as the natural and indispensable intermediate stage between unconscious and conscious cognition.  He also discusses the concepts of reincarnation and karma but is not sure if karma is the outcome of past lives or maybe the achievement of ancestors. He is convinced though that it is important that we “do not stand at the end with empty hands.” He sees the purpose of human existence to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.

He ends the book with “Late Thoughts” and “Retrospect” and tells us that he led his life by obeying an inner law which was imposed on him and left him no freedom of choice and that he was satisfied with the course his life has taken.

My favorite statements are from the chapter  “Late Thoughts” in which he says that the individual has need, “first and foremost of self-knowledge, that is, the utmost possible knowledge of his own wholeness.  He must know relentlessly how much good he can do, and what crimes he is capable of.” He adds “such self-knowledge is of prime importance, because through it we approach that fundamental stratum or core of human nature where the instincts dwell. Here are those preexistent dynamic forces, which ultimately govern the ethical decisions of our consciousness” and that deepened self-knowledge requires psychology.

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation