Toward the end of his life, C. G. Jung dictated and wrote a memoir called Memories, Dreams, Reflections. It was published in 1961. I'm reading it now. The book is strange, intriguing, disturbing, and provocative, for Jung refuses to write a "typical memoir," as he defines it, placing his life in the context of a time and particular events in history. Instead, he says, his life has been almost entirely an inner one, so what he recalls are the memories of that inner life: hence the title. He can remember dreams, in detail, that occured when he was a little boy, and he recounts the elements of his fantasy and dream life, and how he analyzed himself and his own unconscious in order to better understand how the unconscious works in all of us. I've never studied Jung, so much of what he speaks about is pretty new to me - and I had no idea he was so "out there" himself - although his terminology and major ideas have become embedded in our language and knowledge of the psyche, and so a familiarity exists.
In himself, he identified two personalities - one the scientist/philosopher who traveled and worked and wrote in ordinary time, and another personality that seemed drawn to, and at home in, the seventeenth century. When he built a home for himself, he added a tower where he could "withdraw" from daily life:
In the Tower at Bollingen it is as if one lived in many centuries simultaneously. The place will outlive me, and in its location and style it points backward to things of long ago. There is little about it to suggest the present. If a man of the sixteenth century were to move into the house, only the kerosene lamp and the matches would be new to him; otherwise he would know his way about without difficulty. There is nothing to disturb the dead, neither electric light nor telephone. Moreover, my ancestor's souls are sustained by the atmosphere of the house, since I answer for them the questions that their lives once left behind. I carve out answers as best I can. I have even drawn them on the walls. It is as if a silent, greater family, stretching down through the centuries, were peopling the house. There I live in my second personality and see life in the round, as something forever coming into being and passing on...
This struck a chord. My little "studio" in Vermont is a quiet place that I created to give myself a rest from the technology and lights and sounds of normal life, and in making it feel comfortable I used old things that had important associations with my past and the past of my family, as well as symbolic importance to my particular individual interests and periods of my life. None of this was especially "intentional," but I now see what I was doing more clearly than when I made it. A visitor (and that is strange to write, since I've rarely shared that room with anyone, and even my husband only goes there if I've invited him) might experience it as an unfinished, even shabby room, and focus on the easel and paints and canvases rather than the small oak desk which was mine as a child, and where I've spent most of my hours in the room, meditating or reflecting as I looked through an old lace curtain onto my garden. I've always liked that the room is cold and usually unheated, that the lamps are old glass kerosene fixtures set onto wrought iron brackets, that the curtains are handmade, different combinations of white linen and antique lace. I too have written on the walls, or left drawings pinned up - or objects in view - for years without knowing exactly why. Jung has made me want to think more closely about this room and what I put into it, and what I might do to replace it if we move from that house someday. Clearly it is more than its function as refuge or retreat; it is deeply personal and symbolic.
Tomorrow I'll write more about Jung's ideas on progress and the psychological state of humanity.