A Fascinating and Unique Autobiography
Jung explores many fields that are both familiar and strange, such as astrology, alchemy, philosophy, psychology and religion. For someone with limited knowledge and experience, Jung is quite understandable, as he conveys his ideas and feelings very well despite the broad scope and complexities of the subjects. He has a truly synthesizing mind.
It’s a unique autobiography, because, instead of a record of events in Jung’s life, it’s an account mainly of his inner experiences, his dreams, fantasies and reflections. Life is viewed as a process of transformation, namely, transformation of the psyche to achieve “wholeness” or “total consciousness”. Jung also reflects on his relationships and encounters with people who have influenced him, most notably Freud. It’s surprising, however, that he seldom mentions his wife, though he speaks volumes about his parents.
Jung identifies himself strongly with Goethe’s Faust, who gave his soul in exchange for knowledge. He asserts that there are opposites in everything and is particularly obsessed with the dark secrets. The book documents his fascination with corpses and graves, his experiments and experiences with the unconscious, spirits and multiple personalities. If not for his social support, he would perhaps have gone over the edge like Nietzsche.
Answer Comes From Within
“Inner experiences also set their seal on the outward events that came my way and assumed importance for me in youth or later on. I early arrived at the insight that when no answer comes from within to the problems and complexities of life, they ultimately mean very little. Outward circumstances are no substitute for inner experience. … I can understand myself only in the light of inner happenings. It is these that make up the singularity of my life, and with these my autobiography deals.”
A Diabolical Mixture of the Sublime and the Ridiculous
“From the beginning I had conceived my voluntary confrontation with the unconscious as a scientific experiment which I myself was conducting and in whose outcome I was vitally interested. Today I might equally well say that it was an experiment which was being conducted on me. One of the greatest difficulties for me lay in dealing with my negative feelings. I was voluntarily submitting myself to emotions of which I could not really approve, and I was writing down fantasies which often struck me as nonsense, and toward which I had strong resistances. For as long as we do not understand their meaning, such fantasies are a diabolical mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous. It cost me a great deal to undergo them, but I had been challenged by fate. Only by extreme effort was I finally able to escape from the labyrinth.”
“I was afraid of losing command of myself and becoming a prey to the fantasies and as a psychiatrist I realized only too well what that meant. After prolonged hesitation, however, I saw that there was no other way out. I had to take the chance, had to try to gain power over them; for I realized that if I did not do so, I ran the risk of their gaining power over me. A cogent motive for my making the attempt was the conviction that I could not expect of my patients something I did not dare to do myself. … This idea that I was committing myself to a dangerous enterprise not for myself alone, but also for the sake of my patients helped me over several critical phases.”
The Process of Individuation
“As I worked with my fantasies, I became aware that the unconscious
undergoes or produces change. Only after I had familiarized myself with alchemy did I realize that the unconscious is a process, and that the psyche is transformed or developed by the relationship of the ego to the contents of the unconscious. In individual cases that transformation can be read from dreams and fantasies. In collective life it has left its deposit principally in the various religious systems and their changing symbols. Through the study of these collective transformation processes and through understanding of alchemical symbolism I arrived at the central concept of my psychology: the process of individuation.”