Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Carl Jung's Transcendent Self

In January of 1913, at the age of 38, Carl Jung wrote his last letter to his friend, Sigmund Freud. In it, he said

"I accede to your wish that we abandon our personal relations, for I never thrust my friendship on anyone. You yourself are the best judge of what this moment means to you. 'The rest is silence.'"

Later that year, after eight years as a lecturer at the University of Zurich, Jung resigned his post. About his resignation, he wrote

"At the university, I was in an exposed position, and felt that in order to go on giving courses there I would first have to find an entirely new and different orientation. It would be unfair to continue teaching young students when my own intellectual situation was nothing but a mass of doubts."

Jung then began what he called a "self-experiment." Over the next six years, he tried to understand and come to grips with his own unconscious. He transcribed his experiences in the "Red Book," a folio bound in red leather.

During that period, Jung had a recurrent fantasy of an old man whom he called Philemon. He had many long conversations with Philemon. Later, in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, he said about Philemon:

"He said things which I had not consciously thought. For I observed clearly that it was he who spoke, not I...psychologically, Philemon represented superior insight. At times, he seemed to me quite real, as if he were a living personality. To me, he was what the Indians call a Guru... Philemon and other figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and h their own life. Philemon represented a force which was not myself."

About that period in his life, Jung went on to say:

"The years when I was pursuing my inner images were the most important in my life. In them, everything essential was decided. It all began then; the latter details are only supplements and clarifications of the material which burst forth from the unconscious, and at first swamped me. It was the 'prima materia' for a lifetime's work."

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