Form and Content
In 1955, the Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung celebrated his eightieth birthday and published what he said would be his last book. The following year, his American publisher asked for an authorized biography or, better yet, an autobiography. After some discussion and much resistance on Jung’s part, it was decided that Aniela Jaffe, his student and secretary of many years, would spend one afternoon a week talking with him, would record his memories, and would edit them in the form of an autobiography, with Jung as the narrator. The weekly conversations began in the spring of 1957 and continued for another two years. By 1958, however, Jung decided that he had not spoken adequately of his earliest years and wrote his own account of his childhood and student years. In 1959, when Jung and Jaffe had completed a first draft of the autobiography, he added a chapter, “Late Thoughts,” and an account of his visit to East Africa. He thus gave to her a variety of material from which to work: his own writing, which makes up 40 percent of the completed book; transcripts of lectures to medical students, which form the basis of another 25 percent; and answers to her questions. He edited her writing, and she edited his. Nevertheless, he thought of Memories, Dreams, Reflections as her project and asked that it be left out of his collected works.
In the introduction, Jaffe explains her difficulty in getting Jung to talk about his life. As a physician, he felt honor bound to keep the confidences of all who had sought his help. As a public figure who had met many famous people, he chose to remember only those whose destinies seemed somehow tied to his. As an old man who had nearly died already and had recently lost his wife, he was preparing for death, detaching himself from the outward details of his life and reflecting on the inward meaning, most of all on the dreams and visions that had shaped his career from within. His inner life had always been so intense that it threatened to eclipse the outer. He had kept the innermost details secret from almost everyone. Now that he wrote about them, however, it was only natural that they would dominate the book. As Jung explains in the first sentences of his prologue, he had previously written in the language of science but he could not use it to describe himself because he could not observe himself scientifically. Therefore, he used the language of myth. What he wrote could not be judged...
(The entire section is 998 words.)