“Jung’s single-minded humility, his passion to unearth truth, is one of the loveliest impressions to emerge from this absorbing and many-sided book.”

NO MAJOR SPOILERS

Far from esoteric, Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections is a candid and readable account, in part chronological, and in part thematic, covering his personal and professional growth. Deep in introspection, it traces his fascination with dreams and mental health, his initial admiration for and friendship with Freud and what brought it to an end, his battle with his unconscious, his visions, travels and contemplations on life and death. What comes across is a humble individual who by no means had it all figured out but who, much like everyone else, subjected himself to self-scrutiny in search of existential truth.

In a chapter titled “The Tower” it is his views on the connection between the past and the present that particularly resonated with me, where he attributes uprootedness to the “discontents” of civilization. He condemns rushing into novelty at the expense of maintaining a link with our ancestry: “The less we understand of what our fathers and forefathers sought, the less we understand ourselves…” And if the following does not aptly describe our slavery to novelty in this day and age, then I don’t know what does: “Reforms by advances, that is, by news methods or gadgets, are of course impressive at first, but in the long run they are dubious and in any case dearly paid for … They are deceptive sweetenings of existence, like speedier communications which unpleasantly accelerate the tempo of life and leave us with less time than ever before.”

Beautifully argued, Jung maintains that we are not done with past eras or civilizations, and that much as we would like to believe that our “psyche” is “modern”, we possess “ancestral psyches” that have a deep connection with a past that lives on within us. In his words: “Inner peace and contentment depend in large measure upon whether or not the historical family which is inherent in the individual can be harmonised with the ephemeral conditions of the present.”

I’d read it again in a heartbeat.

 

Reviewed by:

Dana K. Haffar

Added 22nd September 2018