During my days of Sixth Form at Wyggeston Grammar School in Leicester, my English teacher introduced me to the ideas of Sigmund Freud. Psychology fascinated me. In 1953, stationed at RAF Edzell in northern Scotland I tuned in, quite by chance, to the BBC and heard a manifestly old gentleman with a mournful voice. It was Carl Gustav Jung.
This chance listening furthered my interest in psychology — and prompted my subsequent journey to Zurich in 1956 to meet Jung. I did not record the interview, but immediately on departing from his house I sat and wrote down my vivid recall of this momentous encounter. Never before or since have I remembered any conversation in such minute detail.
Jung’s house was large, situated in a tree-shadowed garden at Küsnacht, overlooking the Zürichsee. The front door was decorated with iron, the bell an old-fashioned device whose loud janglings seemed disconnected from my pull at the steel handle. A rosy-faced maid, who spoke only French, ushered me up a wide flight of wooden stairs into a book-filled room. On the table there were copies of Punch.
The door opened and a smiling old gentleman greeted me. We climbed another flight of stairs to his study; speaking good English, his voice rose mournfully at the end of his sentences. His moustache white, his face deeply lined, he wore a fawn tweed jacket, grey flannel trousers and on his feet were carpet slippers. I think he was 82 and, rather than answer questions, he seemed content to address me as a young man, with gobbets of wisdom.
What follows is an edited version of what Jung said on that day in 1956.
On the arrogance of those in power
“When a man is a teacher and he finds himself in command of little boys, what he says is always right. There is a great danger. When a patient is laid out helpless and sees the doctor come and cure him like a god from the skies, there is a chance that the doctor will have too exalted an opinion of himself. It is the idea of the papa, or the wise old man who knows everything. You have only to regard the actions of men in high position to see they do not realise they have a shadow. There is now more than ever a need for this self-awareness.”
“And what about Christianity? In this, there is so much which in the eyes of theologians must not be discussed. Ask them if the God in the Old Testament is the same as the God in the New Testament. One does not talk about these things. In the Old Testament, God has no son and he does not come to earth. He is a cruel and merciless God, and he breaks his word. He is completely different from the God in the New Testament, and yet the man of religion does not question it. The Christian does not look at his shadow for fear it will destroy his faith. You see, even the theologians are at war with me.”
On Britain’s relationship with the US — The Suez Crisis
“Britain went to war without consulting the American ambassador... America is your father and you went to war behind papa’s back. For you in Britain are dependent on America for your existence. That is one of the advantages of being a small nation like Switzerland. We have no resources and no outlet to the sea, and we know we are completely dependent upon the nations about us.”
“When Hitler came forward in Germany and spoke to the people, he said, ‘I take the responsibility!’ And they followed him. No one asked himself who this man was — a man who had failed in every sphere of life – and yet he took the responsibility. I did my best to make the Germans realise he was a fraud. That is why I pumped psychology into Germany before the war. But it was to no avail.”
“Take the men in the Kremlin. They have complete control over the hydrogen-bomb. Our destinies are in their hands. But I do not think that Communism will last long. The satellites are breaking away and there is dissension in Russia itself, although it is not openly voiced at the moment. It is always the case with these vast institutions. What the West must do above all is to wait and not take any violent action. Communism will fry in its own fat.”
On the state of things
“The present state of the world is very interesting. There are two vast powers, America and Russia, which are almost shadows of each other. They compensated each other and one is always present at the back of the other. One can almost see this in their symbols: the American has a five-pointed white star, the symbol of the femina candida, whilst the Russians have the red star, the symbol of the wise old man. These countries are married to each other.”
Trevor Eaton founded, and edited for 30 years, the international review Journal of Literary Semantics. In 1992 he founded the International Association of Literary Semantics (IALS); his book Literary Semantics was published in 2010.