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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 304

Memories, Dreams, Reflections is an autobiography of Carl Jung’s life. Unlike most autobiographies, this is not a narrative of the events of his life; rather, it is a psychological look at Jung’s revelations. For example, Jung only briefly states that he has a wife and children. However, he in no...

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Memories, Dreams, Reflections is an autobiography of Carl Jung’s life. Unlike most autobiographies, this is not a narrative of the events of his life; rather, it is a psychological look at Jung’s revelations. For example, Jung only briefly states that he has a wife and children. However, he in no way explains the value of these people in his life. He is far more concerned the internal workings of his mind than the external realities of his life.

In line with his career, the book is filled with Jung’s recollections and the psychological meanings behind them. In the first several chapters, Jung reflects on his childhood at length and considers how his development brought him to his theories. He explores sexuality, personalities, disorders, anxiety, dreams, and relationships.

The remaining chapters are conversations that Jung had at the ripe age of 81 with his dear friend Aniela Jaffé. Jaffé later edited the conversations and removed herself from them entirely. In his conversations with Jaffé, Jung describes his travels to Africa, India, and Italy. He intended to travel in order to gain a greater understanding of European culture from a different point of view. Through his travels, he came to consider the difference between culture and human nature.

In addition, he shares his many dreams. He is a thorough documentarian of his dreams, and he draws many different conclusions about the past and present from them. In a separate chapter, he dives into this relationship with Freud. He highlights how influential Freud was in his theoretical development. However, he also puts distance between himself and Freud’s theories of sexuality. Jung believes that while sexuality is a central human experience, it is not so central to human consciousness. In Jung’s exploration of consciousness, he balances free will and the abstractness of human thought.


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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 840

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 Jung’s early professional work with psychiatric inpatients at the Burghölzi clinic and his ill-fated relationship with Sigmund Freud, which left psychic scars. Five chapters on confrontation with the unconscious, the work, the tower, travels, and visions describe a period of inner uncertainty and exploration, which some have labeled a psychotic episode and others a creative illness, and his eventual return to a solid footing in reality. They also touch on his multicultural interests and his confrontation with his own mortality following a heart attack. Final chapters on Jung’s understanding of life after death, late thoughts, and a retrospective focus on his religious views. Appendices include letters from Freud to Jung, letters to Emma Jung from America (1909) and North Africa (1920), a description of Richard Wilhelm revolving around the Yijing (eighth to third centuries b.c.e.; English translation, 1876; also known as Book of Changes), and Seven Sermons to the Dead, which convey an impression of what Jung experienced during his creative illness.

Throughout the book are materials resulting from his theological and philosophical discussions with his father, who was a minister; his close relationship with his mother, who suffered from mental illness; his experiences with séances and the paranormal; and his experiences with the two opposing sides of his personality. In all, Memories, Dreams, Reflections recounts forty-two of Jung’s dreams and thirteen images from people he treated, reflecting the two-step process that characterizes Jung’s approach to treatment: listening to messages from one’s own unconscious and relating to these messages consciously.

Jung uses the techniques of dream analysis and active imagination in his transformative journey called “individuation,” in which recognizing and incorporating the shadow, the dark side of personality, was a priority. This journey involved encountering various complexes (sensitive, energy-filled clusters of emotions, such as an attitude toward one’s father or father figures) and archetypes (organizing principles, imprints, and symbols of an unknown and incomprehensible content, such as a mandala) and ended in a new spiritual orientation where the center of psychological gravity shifted away from the ego (Sigmund Freud’s term). The new focus Jung called the self or psyche, which is the interior, personal, universal source of all that exists. Jung viewed the psyche as a combination of spirit, soul, and idea. Through the psyche, archetypes awaken and are integrated into consciousness. Jung believed that people grow into wholeness when both conscious and unconscious parts of their mind work in harmony and that people have a natural tendency to move toward balance and self-healing. The transformed self is linked to a larger claim pronouncing that the extension of human consciousness is adding to the consciousness of God.

Memories, Dreams, Reflections reveals publicly for the first time Jung’s remarkable life experiences, including many religious encounters and preoccupations and a deep trust in religious or mystical feelings. Jung’s attitude toward life was one of openness, especially to ideas that were irrational and mysterious. He believed in a reality that was beyond the logic of philosophy and the instruments of scientific investigation. With humility and awe, he believed that infinity stretches beyond human understanding.

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