Memories, Dreams, Reflections Summary

Overview (Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Memories, Dreams, Reflections can be considered as either autobiography or biography. Carl Gustav Jung began writing and telling the stories that would eventually become the book in 1957. He continued to work on the manuscript until shortly before his death in 1961. It was first published shortly after his death, after editing by his assistant Aniela Jaffé and others. Jung wrote five chapters himself. The rest of the book was assembled from interviews, unpublished writings, and a now-published seminar. Jaffé, with the close involvement of Kurt Wolff, selected material, edited it, arranged it thematically, and then organized it into a series of approximately chronological chapters. Jung’s attitude toward the project fluctuated. For example, after reading the early manuscript, he criticized Jaffé’s handling of the text, complaining of“auntifications.” Also, he seemed to dread public reaction and expressly requested that this book be omitted from his collected works. However, he also seemed to want to reveal himself, to convey his intentions and the conditions from which his work grew.

The prologue to Memories, Dreams, Reflections makes it clear that Jung’s inner experiences form the prime material of his scientific work. Indeed, the book provides little information about Jung’s life or external circumstances. For example, the book mentions Jung’s wife, née Emma Rauschenbach, by name only once, in a footnote, and completely omits anything about Toni Wolff, with whom he had an intense affair. Instead, it concentrates on Jung’s inner reality and crises.

The text is a story of Jung’s life from the perspective of old age and mature psychological understanding. The first three chapters, on his school years, reveal a highly unusual boy who was full of contradictions. He was an extraverted and successful scholar who decided on a career in medicine (psychiatry), but at the same time a deeply reflective, isolated person, prone to fantasizing. Chapters on psychiatric activities and Sigmund Freud describe...

(The entire section is 840 words.)