(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

The most haunting images in Jung’s autobiography are from dreams and visions which came to him from his earliest years and which he kept secret for most of his life. When he was only three, he dreamed of an underground shrine that was consecrated to a phallic god. At twelve, he had a vivid mental image of God defecating on the great cathedral at Basel. At twenty, he dreamed that he was carrying a tiny candle in a dark wood, with unknown shadows in pursuit. As he tried to understand what was happening to him, he read voraciously and discovered that he really had two personalities: one growing and full of imperfections, the other ageless, wise, confident, still as a stone. After reading the work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, he decided that this must be a normal enough phenomenon though ignored by most people. After reading some of Friedrich Nietzsche’s writings and seeing what the “No. 2” personality could do even to a man of culture, Jung determined to communicate exclusively through his “No. 1” personality and to explain the nighttime world in a daytime voice.

In Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung seems to speak in the accustomed voice of No. 1 but to speak quite openly about the experiences of No. 2. To some extent, the two personalities merge as the aging man becomes the archetype of the wise old man. No longer constrained to write in a scientific style, Jung abandons the long, numbered paragraphs and extensive bibliographies of his other...

(The entire section is 604 words.)