Volume 1 – the beginning of a journey

It’s amazing to think that this will be the first of 18 – lordy!

Yes I’m going to read the whole sheebang of Jung’s works – but not the Red Book stuff – come on give me a break. The classic 18 set by the end of the year even if it…well….

It’s going to be tough with two young children and a full-time job but someone’s got to do it –probably.

So, to the first volume, Psychiatric Works. Well, to be honest folks it’s not the challenge I was expecting. Disappointed? No – I need to get off to a first start if I’m to make it by December….thank you Jung for writing in plain English, sorry German:

“Mrs S W, 151/2, Protestant. The paternal grandfather was very intelligent, a clergyman who frequently had walking. A brother of her grandfather was feeble-minded, an eccentric who also saw visions. One of his sisters was also a peculiar, odd character
Para 37

We’re getting into the works with the language of the doctor, not the theorist with complex sentences. He’s making notes on family circumstances and character in an easy, rational manner. And we’re launched into the story of this girl, ‘Mrs SW’, with content that is far from straightforward.

Mrs S W apparently demonstrates the existence of mediums and you do think of Jung at an early stage ‘how on earth are you going to explain the fact that the girl is able to call up family members, and have messages passed on from the grave’?

This sleep-awakeness that they loved at the time known as somnambulism – and even made crazy films about viz The Cabinet of Dr Cagliari – how are you going to explain that?

But Jung does it – carefully and quietly. These works, written between 1902 and 1904 echo the darkness of 19th century spirtualism. There are barely lit rooms, veiled expressions and heavy curtains. The girl has visions, hallucinations, sleepwalks and conducts seances. And… Jung goes along, watches, listens and takes notes before cutting it all down to size.

Another voice is powerfully breaking through the girl – supposedly the voice of other, dead family members. But for Jung this is a kind of future personality, a sense of what she will be that is hitting her because she is in a time of huge change in puberty. The power of her deeper reaches is what is giving this voice so much strength – and why people are willing to listen to it and treat her as special.

But  I get a sense of Jung patiently going along with it, not judging but watching and being well, careful:

Once she forbade me to enter a room where she was expecting special communications which she wanted to keep secret from me. I went in, nevertheless, sat down with her three other sitters and listened to everything

And by hanging around Jung sees the end of the story – and how it must often be in these cases where other people give up – or don’t look properly and believe it all must be true with seances and the like. Her visions stop, her personality becoes quieter, if less dramatic. The girl doesn’t want this, she wants still to be held up as an amazing medium, but it happens:

One could observe with one’s own eyes the graduations from somnambulism to conscious lying

And so

thus the curtain fell

The great drama has an end to end all the high-flown, self-importance of the medium – and Jung takes us there. It’s as if by not dismissing an idea immediately, but treating it objectively and calmly, Jung has been able to combat it.

I love the way nothing is simple with Jung – even though the language at this point is easy. So much of this volume is full of people who are really having a bad time of it – vagrants, people who have married, divorced, got into financial difficulties, lost loved ones. Yet Jung just describes their lives and why they behave the way they do – which is the ultimate kindness.

He’s not going to have truck with medical orthodoxy. Patients have mental difficulties can pretend to be mentally ill, but they can be ill as well as pretending. It’s not as easy in other words as faking it v not faking it. Doctors can’t just say it’s one or the other.

He talks to a patient who gives repetitive and, well, to be honest utterly boring answers. But Jung keeps going, asking over and over again, finding what it is that assails the person. The first sign of his association method that so dominates volume 2 (jesus!) rears its (ugly?!) head  as well. More – but not much – of that later.

So this is not the mature Jung putting his unadulterated theories of the human mind. He’s a young doctor, grappling with current theories, putting them out there in the language of the 19th, while giving some utterly non-19th century conclusions.

But we have to forgive him – he’s writing a dissertation for his medical degree after all. And some of us will remember how we were simply trying to get a good mark at this age!

Plus there are signs of the Jung mind forcing its way through the mess of previous theories –with a quiet kindness that is not obvious, but powerful.

So what’s the verdict? A good start? Yes, not always easy – top 10 football players of all time it is not which I would leap on and read in a second – but come on then, bring on the next one.


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