Jung’s Tower

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In preparation for a forthcoming return to the Tower in February 2016, I have thought again of my first visit to Zurich and how Carl Jung’s psychology and the home he made in Bollingen has shaped my life and my own attitude to my home in Canterbury, Kent.

It was on a weekend trip to Zurich in the  winter of 2002 by Easyjet. It was freezing and snowing. In the dark, I remember gesticulating to the patient taxi driver and saying ‘Jung’ until he understood our goal. Getting out of the car, we began walking upward aiming for a place where the taxi driver had pointed, into the grey distance. It was only a short walk to the Tower, up in the woods.

Now since I had been in analysis for about five years and had read so much of his writings, in particular Memories, Dreams, Reflections, the stroll to Jung’s house was exciting. I felt I knew the place and its significance. And so we paced quickly up to the front gate, beginning to recognise the shape and outline of the Tower. The garden was untidy and frosted so the plants were golden. I imagined the wise old wizard Dr Jung stepping outside and taking wood for the fire in the kitchen. The kettle would sing and the spoons would dance like a Disney cartoon scene.

But quickly the images faded and there was a moment of bemusement as I realised we were not going to be invited inside. We had no arrangements nor introduction and there was a moment of paralysis. An identification with stone. We were left standing there: like fools. Was it funny? I think it was. By way of compensation for the deflated feeling, I walked to the Lake and collected several ‘Jung stones’ from the water, dipping my hand in and putting the damp slate in my bag. Satisfied, we took the train back to Zurich and returned to the warm Maartahaus hostel with its L-shaped rooms and convivial breakfast buffet.

Jung wrote at length of the parallel developments of his inner life and the tower, over more than three decades, saying things like:

“At Bollingen I am in the midst of my true life, I am most deeply myself”

“At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the plashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the procession of the seasons.”

“I pump the water from the well.  I chop the wood and cook the food.  These simple acts make man simple; and how difficult it is to be simple!”

When I truly examine my own habits, it’s clear that I fritter away enough time with gadgets each day to find the space for this kind of exploration.  It doesn’t need to be with the kinds of activities I outlined above.

I find it’s ok to schedule “time for inner work” the way I schedule timJung pumping water at Bollingen ca. 1960. Library of Congresse at the gym, but the most powerful new discoveries seem to emerge from those quiet voices at the edge of consciousness, the tiny impulse it is so easy to overlook in our busy lives.

Such an impulse woke me one night at 1:00am one morning.  Instead of going back to sleep, I got up and wrote down a sentence.  That led to a paragraph, and then a page, and then another.  That was the start of the first (and so far only) novel I’ve finished.

Something similar happened to Jung at his tower.  He gave the stonemason at a quarry precise measurements for blocks he needed to build a new wall, but one of the stones arrived in error; it was square, about 20″ on each side.

When Jung saw it, he said, “That is my stone, I must have it!”  Over time, he carved a testament to his life and work on stone which “stands outside the Tower, and is like an explanation of it.  It is a manifestation of the occupant.”

Bollingen stone, main face, CC-BY-SA-3.0

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