C.G. Jung Speaking: interviews and encounters


This collection of interviews, diary notes, small lectures is notable for one thing: a portrait of Jung via his contemporaries.

The early part concentrates mainly on newspaper and magazine articles written about a man who is starting to intrigue psychologists and lay people alike.

The second moves to extended question and answer sessions more in keeping with the long transcripts of his seminars, plus the well-known BBC interview that brought Jung to the British public at large, remarkably popular among viewers at the time.

That is particularly so in the US, and the first interview crops up in The New York Times in 1912. The interviewer remains anonymous, but the article is lengthy, with Jung’s unexpurgated comments that no doubt caused a few to spit out their coffee over breakfast in a wood-panelled room. For example:

The American husband is very indignant when he comes to me for treatment for neurasthenia or nervous breakdown, and I tell him it is because he is brutal on the one hand and prudish on the other. You have in America the wooden face, just as they have it in England, because you’re trying so hard to hide your emotions and your instincts. (p41, 1980, Picador, ed William McGuire and RFC Hull)

This is classic Jung, typically bold in talking to the American audience. Elsewhere he expounds in simple, brutal style about the wartime dictators, but still to a US audience, to foreign correspondent HR Knickerbocker.

I saw the Duce [Mussolini] and the Führer in Berlin the time Mussolini paid his formal visit; I had the good luck to be placed only a few yards away from them, and could study them well…as I observed Mussolini watching the goose step I could see him enjoying it with the zest of a small boy at a circus…in comparison Hitler made upon me the impression of a sort of scaffolding of wood covered with cloth, an automaton with a mask. During the whole performance he never laughed (p134)

Then there’s the BBC interview with John Freeman, one of Jung’s last public speaking events and notable for Freeman’s probing questions answered by Jung’s equally searing answers. It has some gentle, wise words on ageing, however, as in the following line: “I think it is better for an old person to live on, to look forward to the next day, as if he had to spend centuries, and then he lives properly” (p392).

But what makes this collection is not just the words of Jung, but also those of the people who visit him.

There’s a lovely description by one of Jung’s American proselytisers, Eleanor Bertine in 1948, visiting after the war for the first time: “We well remembered on this return, the majesty of the mountains, but we had almost forgotten the quaint loveliness of every little hamlet” (p173).

And it gets even better, especially when well-known novelists are on hand. The fact that they know very little about Jung – they’re not part of his circle in any way – make the descriptions of the meeting less partial. So Italian writer Alberto Moravia writes:

Here I am on my way to visit C.G. Jung in one of Zurich’s suburbs. Here are the luxurious villas of the banking and commercial bourgeoisie, surrounded by vast gardens…But here, at last is No. 228 Seestrasse, the street of the lake. The rain is pelting down on the yellow leaves of the tree-lined avenue, at the end of which one can see the entrance to the villa. I ring the bell and Jung’s secretary opens the door. In a few minutes Jung himself ushers me through the waiting room into his study (p186-187)

For the description of Jung himself, pick the book up! For it’s marvellously evocative stuff, equalled if not in its technique but certainly in its emotional honesty by the Argentinian Victoria Ocampo:

In October of 1934, on my return from Rome to Paris, I made a detour and stopped in Zurich to see the author of Psychological Types. It was pouring rain that afternoon when in Küsnacht my taxi dropped me, armed with an umbrella, and disarmed with contradictory emotions, before Dr Jung’s door. Was it because of the long hours on the train, the sudden change of temperature, the pain, the proximity of the great man? I don’t know. The fact is, I was aware of the growth and development in me of one of those inferiority complexes which make us feel and play the role of the idiot to perfection.(pp93-94)

Beautiful stuff.


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