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Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 753

This book seeks to create a biographical portrait of Jung by examining many of his memories and dreams. The first chapter of the book contains Jung's descriptions of his earliest childhood memories, some of which are illuminating in terms of his later ideas about human psychology. It is remarkable that...

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This book seeks to create a biographical portrait of Jung by examining many of his memories and dreams. The first chapter of the book contains Jung's descriptions of his earliest childhood memories, some of which are illuminating in terms of his later ideas about human psychology. It is remarkable that many of Jung's earliest thoughts and dreams, and his recollections of them as presented in this book, were clear and vivid enough that he was able to recall and utilize them later in his acclaimed writings.

For example, this quote is from a segment where Jung describes his memory of a female caregiver who took care of him as a child.

It was as though she belonged not to my family but only to me, as though she were connected in some way with other mysterious things I could not understand. This type of girl later became a component of my anima. The feeling of strangeness which she conveyed, and yet of having known her always, was a characteristic of that figure which later came to symbolize for me the whole essence of womanhood.

Clearly these insights are connected to Jung’s conception of archetypes of the feminine, and his idea of the “anima” which states that every person contains aspects of both genders within their psyche, and has the capability of understanding and empathizing with another gender’s thoughts and emotions. There is some suggestion of Jung's idea of the Collective Unconscious here as well, wherein all human experience draws from the same deep well of humanity.

Jung also describes his growing awareness of his own fears and perceptions. Here he is describing a fear of the dark:

Though I became increasingly aware of the beauty of the bright daylight world where "golden sunlight filters through green leaves," at the same time I had a premonition of an inescapable world of shadows filled with frightening, unanswerable questions which had me at their mercy.

In this passage, Jung acknowledges that his premonition was a way of expressing fear of his own dreams and the “dark” places his dreams would sometimes take him. He distinguished these two time periods and associated them with the known (what could be seen) and the unknown (what lurked in shadows or darkness). He continues:

It was as if I sensed a splitting of myself, and feared it. My inner security was threatened.

This is directly related also to Jung’s conception of the “shadow self” as an aspect of one’s personality that seems frightening until one determines to learn more about it and to make peace with it. This idea, that each person has a “dark side” that may reveal disturbing thoughts or frightening images, is one of the core tenets of Jungian psychology. Clearly, this notion was with Jung from a very young age, and he later integrated this memory into his more sophisticated writings on the human psyche.

Jung also describes many of his dreams, and his analysis and understanding of them also lend context to some of his later work on dreams. This passage in particular stood out to me:

In the first dream I was in a dark wood that stretched along the Rhine. I came to a little hill, a burial mound, and began to dig. After a while I turned up, to my astonishment, some bones of prehistoric animals. This interested me enormously, and at that moment I knew: I must get to know nature, the world in which we live, and the things around us.

Then came a second dream. Again I was in a wood; it was threaded with watercourses, and in the darkest place I saw a circular pool, surrounded by dense undergrowth. Half immersed in the water lay the strangest and most wonderful creature: a round animal, shimmering in opalescent hues, and consisting of innumerable little cells, or of organs shaped like tentacles. It was a giant radiolarian, measuring about three feet across. It seemed to me indescribably wonderful that this magnificent creature should be lying there undisturbed, in the hidden place, in the clear, deep water. It aroused in me an intense desire for knowledge, so that I awoke with a beating heart. These two dreams decided me overwhelmingly in favor of science, and removed all my doubts.

Jung's vivid recollection of these dreams, and his almost immediate and very thoughtful ability to make sense of them as both personal gnosis and a wider, general philosophy, once again show the genius and sensitivity of Jung's personality.

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