Dependency in the analytic relationship

~ The problem of spiritual emancipation ~

Abstract: Three cases of dependency, in analysands of C.G. Jung, are investigated. Their dreams, including their personal understanding, are examined. The article addresses difficulties in Jung’s personal convictions, which hampered his former analysands (my conjecture). These convictions remain a quandary in the school of Analytical Psychology. The principle of personal emancipation, so central to the spiritual teachings of all times, is underestimated in the modern era.

Keywords: dependency, Carl Jung, Joseph L. Henderson, Marie-Louise von Franz, Wolfgang Pauli, quaternarian, trinitarian, Christian mysticism, analytical psychology, transference, individuation.


In the analytical relationship, as in any relationship of psychological dependency, the analyst’s unconscious problem or his dubious convictions, risk being communicated to the analysand. After the analysand has resolved many personal issues, there is often an emptiness that must be addressed. To what extent the analyst should be involved in this phase remains a difficult question. Psychological dependency can have a stifling effect on the growth of personality. Something which illustrates this is how people occasionally experience a freeing of personality when their parents die. An impairing form of dependency can develop in the long-standing analytic relationship, or in the relation to a powerful personality. Such patterns of dependency may also form through the reading of books written by important thinkers. Personality is invaded with ideas partially incompatible with one’s true nature. The question of emancipation remains important also in adulthood, as illustrated by this famous Zen saying: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”

To deliberately “remove all attachments” seems very central in spiritual tradition, but this concept is not properly addressed in Jungian thinking. The notion of seeing through the illusions, not only of personal relations, but of the world as a whole, is undeveloped in Western general consciousness. In the following I present dreams and dream excerpts that illustrate this, some of which include the death motif. As I miss much of the contextual information, my interpretations, needless to say, have only a relative truth-value. (But the gist of my argument does not stand or fall with these interpretations.)

Henderson and Jung

David Tresan (2007) discusses dependency in the case of Joseph L. Henderson (analysand) and C.G. Jung (analyst).

Dr. Henderson himself had two dreams in the early thirties when he was about thirty that reassured him beyond doubt that his relationship to Jung would be healthy with regard to dependency and that he was fated to be an individual in his own right. [In the first dream the] news was that Jung had died. When Henderson heard this in the dream, there arose a clatter from people beating on pots and pans like the Chinese are said to do in order to help a soul ascend to heaven. This tumult was to help Jung’s soul rise, and, quite contrary to Baynes’s expectations, Dr. Henderson felt happy for Jung and in no way disturbed. He realized later that it was Baynes who had displaced his own feeling attachment to Jung onto him (Henderson). (Tresan, 2007)

More to the point is that Henderson compensates his attachment to Jung by dreaming that Jung has died. In the long-standing relationship, Jung, by power of personality, will impose his views on the patient. In Henderson’s case it is likely to stymie his development. In an interview (cf. Wagner, 1985) Henderson recounts a dream where he is seated in a church together with his colleagues. Jung appears as a clergyman and holds a speech. Afterwards all people in the pew rise and exclaim repeatedly “mandala! mandala!”, similar to how historical Christians would call out hosanna! Henderson said that the dream was indicative of his ridiculous attachment to Jung. There is an emancipative motif behind these dreams.

Jung’s view of the advanced development of personality is radically his own. It involves the continual encounter with archetypal forces, by way of ‘active imagination’. [1] Such a view runs counter to the ideals of Christian mystics, who saw advanced development of personality as the fruit of complete surrender and privation. Although Jung in this respect is inconclusive, it could be argued that he inclines toward a “Celtic” mythic worldview, which bears the signature of heroism — an unceasing heroic struggle against the dragons of the unconscious. In the post-Jungians this somewhat archaic aspect of his thought has been amplified, and the detrimental effect is unmistakable (see my ‘Critique of Archetypal Psychology’, here).

The dependency on Jung probably had a harmful effect on Henderson. It seems that many psychoanalysts think that dependency, by way of transference, is a requirement for a fruitful psychoanalytic relation. [2] Yet, it could lead to detrimental consequences if the relation is continued much beyond the resolution of urgent transference issues. After all, dependency goes beyond this phase. Jung himself insisted on the finite nature of the analytical process and the need to separate from the analyst if an analysand is to fully individuate. Thus, the argument that an analyst could have life-long relations to an analyst, in the “symbolic friendship”, must be questioned. It’s evident from Tresan’s article that Henderson took issue with Jung’s archaic God image, symbolized by Jung’s “giant radiolarian” (cf. von Franz, 1998, pp.31ff), which is referred to as a “monster”:

As such, he, like the patient of the round monster, individuated under the aegis of what Dr. Henderson calls the Primal God Image. The obverse was that Jung eschewed the realm of Henderson’s Ultimate God Image which was metaphysics. Together, in absolute accord with Henderson’s theory, the Primal and the Ultimate God Images represent the two poles of the state of individuation… (Tresan, 2007)

Henderson (1967) is intent on introducing a “Christian” counterpart of the primal god image, called the ultimate god image. He exemplifies with the shamanic type of initiation that provides the mythology of a circular experience; descent to the Primal God Image, followed by ascent to the Ultimate God Image, both of which are at the extremities in his diagram (here). The upmost Ultimate God Image involves the myth of transcendency. Jung regarded the latter as, largely, a defence against the true and living godhead, namely the primal godhead, exemplified by the god Mercurius in alchemy. Henderson’s argument, toward the inclusion of the transcendent godhead, bears upon his many case examples, including dream interpretations. [3]

If Henderson dreams that Jung dies, this indicates a strong urge to break free. Jung and von Franz overtly eschewed the concepts of individuation introduced by Christian mystics. [4] They referred to it as ‘imitatio Christi’. To modern people, certain features of mystical discipline appear artificial and excessive, but the call to disengagement and poverty still makes sense, in the way of a whole-hearted and decisive step toward spiritual change. This concept does not appeal to Jung, either. Thus, a lopsidedness develops, toward the archaic view of the Self. The “monstrous” Primal God Image, as portrayed in Henderson’s book, embodies both good and bad, and probably also male and female. It is close to Jung’s own view of the divine, as portrayed in “Answer to Job”, and elsewhere.

Jung emphatically evaded notions of faith, pertaining to the transcendental God, in order to focus on the archetypal processes in individuation. But what if ‘faith’ is a natural ingredient in individuation, whereas the psychological opus at a point in time must cease, and mortification commence? [5] To be focused on the transcendental God means to look past every passion of the soul, and resolutely avoid the chimera of the world. This would include the collective unconscious, which, arguably, is also “of the world”. John of the Cross (1542-1591) says that discursive meditation, a technique similar to Jung’s ‘active imagination’, is useful only at the stage of the novice:

[Meditation] is a discursive action wrought by means of images, forms and figures that are fashioned and imagined by the said senses, as when [we] imagine all kinds of other things, whether Divine or human, that can belong to the imagination. All these imaginings must be cast out from the Soul, which will remain in darkness as far as this sense is concerned, that it may attain to Divine union […]
   For, although these considerations and forms and manners of meditation are necessary to beginners, in order that they may gradually feed and enkindle their souls with love by means of sense, [yet] they must merely pass through them, and not remain ever in them, for in such a manner they would never reach their goal, which does not resemble these remote means, neither has aught to do with them. The stairs of a staircase have naught to do with the top of it and the abode to which it leads, yet are means to the reaching of both… [6]

Although St John is steeped in the theology of the mystical tradition, let us give him a benefit of a doubt. What he criticises is, I think, a naive form of discursive meditation, and not necessarily all forms. So he probably throws the baby out with the bathwater. Yet his critique could be relevant as regards the naive form of active imagination. To the many disciples that never leave the naive “amateur level” — and John recognizes this — Jung’s worldview is apposite, but it could be harmful to men like Henderson who have an urge to make progress. [7] Focusing on imagery, and to view this as the cardinal element of the psyche, could lead to harmful consequences. This is evident in the case of phenomenological post-Jungian thinking, such as James Hillman’s psychology (here).

Wolfgang Pauli, physicist and former patient of Jung, recurrently dreamt of a figure whom he associated with Merlin, the prophet and magician in Arthurian legend (cf. Meier 2001, pp.50-51). It seems that this figure was partly identifiable as Jung, something which Jung himself acknowledges (cf. von Franz, 1998, ch.XIV). Pauli dreamt that this medieval wizard was surrounded by women and children, who were much fond of him. Although this image does not seem disagreeable, it is for “women and children”, which in a man’s dream language would imply naive people. It does not refer to Jung’s scientific contributions, which are excellent, but it concerns his philosophy of life, that is, his advanced concepts of individuation. Although Jung eschews a metaphysics on phenomenological lines, he endorses a concentrative effort on the image. Arguably, this is what causes the drift toward “childish” occupations, with the Celtic necromancer Merlin in the centre.

Von Franz and Jung

‘The Eulogy for Marie-Louise von Franz’ (Isler, 2004, here), presents us with some of von Franz’s dreams from her last years, when she suffered from a somatic illness. We may discuss these dreams from a similar perspective. M-L von Franz did analysis with Jung, and afterwards they remained lifelong colleagues.

She is working in the laundry at the cloister in Einsiedeln. She is given to understand that Jung would come down from heaven to the wedding of the Black Madonna. Marie-Louise is among the one hundred elect who are permitted to take part in the wedding. (Isler, 2004)

She commented on this and said, as referenced by Gottfrid Isler:

[The] unconscious was indeed preparing a remedy for the world and a union, to be sure not one “above in the spiritual realm,” but a union of above and below, a union of spirit and matter. Very early on the Virgin Mary was thought to be “the earth;” the Black Madonna was a nature goddess. And yet the union comes about in a Christian framework, which she (Marie-Louise) never could accept. But still the dream filled her with the highest happiness. (ibid.)

The Black Madonna, a famous relic in the Einsiedeln cloister, is a potent Christian symbol. To the élite it is also an eminent symbol of mortification, the denial of bodily passions and appetites by abstinence. When Jung comes down from heaven to the wedding of the Black Madonna, it seems to portray the “death of the spirit of Jung”. The Black Madonna represents the Mother of Death, and Jung is now going to experience the “second death” — a mythologem prevalent in traditional cultures where people perform rituals to facilitate the second death of the deceased individual (otherwise he risks coming back to haunt them). The second death of Jung must be accomplished, thus liberating her from his living spirit. Arguably, it allows her to attain the ‘mortificatio’ along lines of the Christian mystics.

In the German language, people say they have to “wash dirty linen” if they have quarreled and want to resolve the matter. Here she is “washing dirty linen” in the realm of Christian spiritual discipline. The idea of complementing Jung’s spirit (that is, his ideas) with its better half, namely the contemplative aspect of Christianity, is portrayed in this dream. In the laundry she is performing a work of a very humble Christian nature, signifying reclusiveness, purification, and self-mortification. This true cloister work could be the very act that brings about the union of upper and lower.

Assuming that the dream function is compensatory, the dreams could mean that von Franz and Jung have underestimated the Christian personal opus, which implies self-denial in mystical terms, that is, the tempering of the ego, the ‘mortificatio’, and the ‘sacrificio intellectualis’. The work she performs in the cloister is very remote from her personal nature. It’s as if she is prostrating herself before the trinitarian God. To Jung and von Franz the ‘sacrificio intellectualis’ tended to take the form of active imagination, painting, dreaming, the argument being that this is the opposite of the intellectual and conscious function. Although there is a level of truth in this, the matter is more complicated. Notwithstanding its preliminary benefits, eventually it becomes yet another way of supporting the ego.

Arguably, this reflect upon an “aesthetic” attitude that is furtively present in Jung’s worldview, which later would grow to a strong gale in Hillman’s form of paganism. Juan de la Cruz, and other Christian mystics, argued that such imaginative work is performed at an amateur’s stage. They held that everything that engages libido, and which is enticing to the person, i.e., something that the ego longs after, is a distraction from God. It will only serve to delay mortification, which aims at a spiritual form of death, mors voluntaria. M-L von Franz is doing the laundry, but she is not performing active imagination. Nor is she mixing chemicals in an alchemist’s laboratory, or in a magician’s fairytale castle. She is enclosed in a Christian place, performing a very humble and repetitious task. The dream is compensatory, I’d say. It puts her in a context where Jung said that she does not belong. It seems like the dream says: give up everything that is you, give up Jung’s psychology, even. Not because it is faulty, of course, but because it is full of libido that engages you and keeps your ego bound to earthly things.

She is near a farmhouse; many people in black are there. A young farm worker digs a hole for the coffin. Out of the coffin comes an old man who suffers the same illness as she. He absolutely wants to live. The fellow argues with him, saying that he belongs back in there, throws him in the coffin and shuts the lid. She herself takes no part in it and thinks: “This has nothing to do with me.” In the yard stands a tree. She thinks that it is a horse-chestnut. But it is a marvelously beautiful tree with dinner-plate sized passion flowers which she herself had once planted. In each blossom is a little tomato. She plucks one, eats it and knows that it is the “cibus immortalis,” the food of immortality. (ibid.)

Her comment on this was that “[the] old man was the will to live that will not give up, but only extends her suffering. The worker believes it is time to die…” (ibid.). In the other dream I proposed that it is Jung who is going to be married with the Mother of Death in order to undergo the “second death”, which is a well-known theme in comparative religion. In this dream a similar theme appears. The man who is dead (buried in a coffin) wants to live. Her proposal is that it refers to the unbending will to live that struggles against her physical illness. But, among aboriginals, in order to die completely, a man must die a second time, i.e. undergo the spiritual death. This serves to prevent him from remaining an unblessed spirit, bound to the living. She leaves this man to his fate. Who is this man that she turns her back to?

Which tree is this, that von Franz at first underestimates and thinks is a mere “horse-chestnut” (that carries inedible chestnuts)? What does the passion flower signify?

According to Webster’s dictionary the passion flower is symbolic of Christ’s crucifixion (having to do with the fancied resemblance of parts of the flowers to Christ’s crucifixion). It is evident from her comments on the cloister dream that she didn’t much like the Christian context. It is a horse-chestnut to her. This coincides with Jung’s view. Hence, the man in the coffin, who suffers from “the same illness as she”, is probably her conscious passion in life, connected with Jung and Jungian psychology. Thus, it represents the spirit of Jung, in a sense. I doubt that he impersonates her attachment to physical life as something that she must walk out on. After all, it is in our nature to continue living, despite the hardships of life. Rather, he would represent her conscious attachments that refuse to die.

The tomato is actually a fruit and was once thought to be poisonous, but is today one of the most important vegetable crops. They fabricate a “blood-surrogate” from it, namely ketchup. So in this dream appear the flower of crucifixion and the blood fruit. When she eats the tomato she is secretly drinking the blood of Christ in the Eucharist.

She had written an eight volume work on Arabic alchemy. She had the eight volumes in front of her and she was quite happy about them. (ibid.)

She understood the dream as affirming that her life’s work was now finished. But what does the dream really say? Eight is a curious choice of number because it is 2 x 4. Jung, and von Franz, regarded the number 4 as the number of wholeness, par excellence. So eight would secretly express 2. It would mean that completeness is really a two-unity (see my article, ‘The Complementarian Self’, here). This realization is what makes her happy. The most famous saying deriving from Arabic alchemy, often cited by Jung, is “That which is above is like to that which is below, and that which is below is like to that which is above.” Thus there are two wholenesses, an upper and a lower. The dream compensates the Jungian focus on the “worldly” quaternarian Self (the quaternity).

Comparatively, Western alchemists typically endorsed the number three (‘ternarius’), the number of the Christian Godhead, and were suspicious of the number four (‘quartarius’). To Gerhard Dorn the number four was “of the devil” (cf. Jung, 1977, p.188). But Jung regarded the Trinity an incomplete wholeness in that it only effected a union with the potential “spiritual” world, and not the world of multiplicity (ibid. p.534). It stood in the way of true individuation. But what if Dorn was right in his tenacious defence of the ‘ternarius’? Henderson, so it seems, wants to combine ‘ternarius’ and ‘quartarius’.

She saw in a brook something that she took to be human excrement — “something man-made,” she thought. As she stepped closer she saw that it was this frog. Suddenly it lifted its foreleg and waved at her. (ibid.)

To her, this was a sign that Jung was still living, and she died with a beautiful carved stone frog in her hand, which had been in the possession of Jung. The frog in fairytales, which is von Franz’s field of expertise, is a representative of the anima-world hidden underneath our Christian culture. It is a dream image comparable to Pauli’s Merlin dream. What Jung stands for is something very precious. He is the Frog King, well-known from fairytales. As such he does not represent a wholly different paradigm. Rather, he stands for the necessary vitalizing complement to our conscious heritage, namely the inner spiritual path, i.e., the spirit as found in seemingly humble things.

In “The Way of the Dream” von Franz’s reveals that she repeatedly dreamt of being publicly executed, primarily by decapitation (cf. Boa, ch.2, 1994). She understood these dreams as expressing the necessity of abandoning the ego attitude for the moment. But this does not rule out that they really denote mortification, especially since her enormous intellect is located in the head. To sacrifice her greatest possession would, in a sense, imply giving up her conscious life. That ideal would have appeared overly spiritual, too medieval and ascetic for her taste.

Pauli and Jung

When Wolfgang Pauli experienced a deep crisis, Jung suggested that Pauli consulted with a colleague of Jung. Later Pauli took up analysis with Jung. After two years, Pauli suddenly cancelled their weekly sessions. This was probably disappointing to Jung while Pauli’s unconscious was a fount of valuable archetypal material, much of which is analysed by Jung in “Psychology and Alchemy” (Jung, 1980). They remained friends throughout life, producing a sizeable and highly cerebral correspondence.

There is a vertical and a horizontal circle, having a common centre. This is the world clock […] The horizontal circle consists of four colours. On it stand four little men with pendulums […] The “clock” has three rhythms or pulses […]. (cf. Jung, 1980, p.203)

[The dreamer draws] three-leaved clovers or distorted crosses in four different colours […] (cf. Jung, 1980, p.164)

Pauli always returned to the theme of three and four. As with Henderson it seems to be the question of integrating three and four, not rejecting three in favour of four (on lines of Jung), nor rejecting four in favour of three. When Pauli saw the embellished picture of Brother Klaus’s Trinity vision, it immediately brought to mind the above dream of the world clock with its three rhythms (cf. Lindorff, 2004, p.47).

The ‘ternarius’ clearly wanted to add to the worldview deriving from Jung. Also in his conscious speculation Pauli notoriously returned to the above form of abstract speculation, which, like an image of the trinitarian godhead, served to compensate the quaternity, what Dorn had called the “four-horned serpent”.

[…] Niels Bohr [makes] an announcement to me, a very official one: “Three popes have given you a house. One of them is named John […] I have made no secret of the fact that we two do not share their religious beliefs but have nevertheless persuaded them to offer you the gift.” […] (cf. Meier, 2001, pp.135f)

Pauli suggests that this represents a linkup with Catholic tradition. Jung, in his reply, thinks that the three popes signify the “lower Trinity”, that is, the chthonic counterpart of the Christian Trinity (cf. Meier, 2001, pp.135-37, p.154). To Jung, this probably stands for a linkup with the anima-world, but I would suggest a somewhat different interpretation of the “dark Trinity”. [8] After all, the theme of three popes seems imbued with Christian spirit. Comparatively, in the Celtic tradition the chthonic Trinity appears in the form of The Triple Mothers. I suggest that the symbol represents the mors mystica, and the seclusive life of the mystic. The symbol certainly connects with the Catholic tradition, but more specifically its shadowy aspect, namely the way of the radical Catholic mystic.

Pauli took great interest in the intellectual controversy between the astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) and the physician and Rosicrucian Robert Fludd (1574-1637). Whereas Fludd remained true to an alchemical view of the world, Kepler’s modern methods of quantitative measurement was, according to Fludd, tantamount to heresy. The objectified and rational attitude of Kepler, according to which man sets himself above nature as a neutral onlooker, was a threat to a vision of wholeness. It would create a rift in the soul — man and world would definitively fly apart. Of course, Fludd was correct — but so was Kepler. Kepler and Fludd represent the attitudes of the trinitarian versus the quaternarian (cf. Lindorff, 2004, p.89).

It is my contention that Jung had a strong predilection for the quaternarian standpoint. Pauli, in his essay about the Kepler-Fludd dispute (Pauli, 1955), accepts both standpoints. This essay probably testifies to his inner struggle to remain under the aegis of the Trinity, and thus to liberate himself from Jung’s, and Fludd’s, perspective. Still, his conscious standpoint was that the number three was incomplete, while the number four, in contrast, was the number of completeness (cf. Lindorff, 2004, p.57). Undoubtedly, this is an influence of Jung’s work. Since Kepler represents the extraverted trinitarian standpoint, Pauli’s conscious efforts merely serve to compensate the quaternity. The introverted trinitarian standpoint is the proper solution.

When Pauli, after two years of analysis, discontinued his sessions with Jung, he said that “it is true that there are still one or two unresolved problems remaining. Nevertheless, I feel a certain need to get away from dream interpretation and dream analysis, and I would like to see what life has to bring me from outside” (Meier, 2001, p.6). The realm of Merlin, the Celtic dreamworld, with its “vague female forms”, is encroaching upon his extraverted trinitarian world. Lacking the mitigating force of a heartfelt and sincere piety, Pauli must break away from the “four-horned serpent”.

I am in Sweden, where I come across an important letter. [It] says in the letter that with me there is something essentially different from C.G. Jung. The difference is that with me the number 206 has changed to 306, but not with Jung. I keep seeing 206 turn into 306. The letter is signed: “Aucker”. (cf. Meier, 2001, 137)

The zero, in its capacity of circle, and due to its position in the centre, probably refers to wholeness and, hence, spirit. With Pauli, the trinitarian spirit has made an inroad, whereas Jung remains in the binarian, “Celtic”, world. The quaternity, Dorn says, is really ‘binarius’ (the devil) in disguise. In Pauli’s number, the sum of 3 and 6 equals 9. Nine is a most potent number as it is the square of three, thus symbolically combining three and four. In Christian tradition it represents the dynamic aspect of the Trinity, namely the Holy Ghost. M-L von Franz shows that in the fairytales “the number nine is found in the symbolism of hell, the underworld and the realm of the dead” (von Franz, 1997, p.135). In this context it represents the chthonic Trinity and the pre-Christian pantheon. But, as I argue above, the “dark Trinity” could also represent the “dark night of the soul”, in terms of St. John of the Cross.

Pauli had no associations to the name Aucker. It is an authentic surname, but the mythological connotations are probably more important. A similar name “Auker” appears in the Egyptian Book of the Dead: “Hail, An-a-f, who comest forth from Auker, I have not scorned [or treated with contempt] the god of my town” (Book 3, transl. Wallis Budge). There are different variants of spelling of ancient Egyptian names. The most common spelling of this god is “Aker”.

Aker is an earth god. He is one of the oldest Egyptian gods; the guardian of the resurrection mystery (cf. von Franz, 1987, p.16). This is the same mystery as referred to in John 12:24: …unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. The old Egyptians likened the hard and tough seed coat to the coffin. The inner second coat, which is thin and membranous (tegmen), was equated with the mummy wrappings. When the seed, in the form of the mummy, is buried in the earth, new life will soon sprout.

It’s not illogical that the earth god, responsible of death and resurrection, should appear in Sweden. Some believe that the name derives from ‘svedjeland’, a place where one practiced the agricultural method of burning down the vegetation, proceeding to sow in the fertile ashes. In old texts Sweden is referred to as ‘Svitjod’, which possibly means ‘scorched earth’ (= ‘svedd jord’. This etymologization has been contested in recent years, but it is relevant to the time period of the dreamer). The word ‘sved’ is common in Swedish place names, and so is the name Åker, which means tilled land. In the pagan era, places named Åker (‘å’ = ‘au’) were centres of fertility cults.

These trinitarian symbols point Pauli away from Jung’s quaternarian world. The trinitarian mystery involves self-denial to the effect that pleasures and worldly attachment are toned down. Instead one’s time and devotion is committed to God, who is beyond all worldly things. The method of Christian mysticism is explicated in historical works such as “The Cloud of Unknowing” and the “Dark Night of the Soul”. Again, Pauli’s dreams have pointed him towards the mystery of spiritual death, the mors voluntaria.

An ace of clubs lies before the dreamer. A seven appears beside it. (Jung, 1980, par.97)

The ace of clubs refers back to the dream of clovers/distorted crosses. To Jung it points to the Christian symbol, which will be succeeded by the seven transformative stages of alchemy, culminating in the solificatio. Pauli, true to his extraversion, came to view the black crosslike shape as the “shadow cast by the Christian cross — in other words [the] dark side of Christianity” probably referring to the ominous political events taking place in Europe (cf. Meier, 2001, p.17 & Lindorff, 2004, pp.53-54).

An interpretation on the subjective level would hint at a spiritual process taking place within the “dark side of Christianity”, and not necessarily a succession to a spiritual path of pagan origins, as in Jung’s interpretation of alchemy. What, then, is signified by the “shadow cast by the Christian cross”? Looking at this symbol in connection with its many correlates in the coming years, it could well be the arduous spiritual path of mortification, devised by St John and his medieval forerunners of the via negationis: to step by step leave the creatural and to disrobe all attributes, thus reaching beyond both existence and non-existence. In Interior Castle, Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) describes the mystical path as consisting of seven steps. It is interesting to see how Pauli, as if overcompensating the impact of the symbol, interprets the ‘seven’ as “the birth of the anima”, which would seem to represent the very opposite of the via negationis. However, one must keep in mind that the anima, much like the mother archetype, is ambivalent. (See also my interpretation of the “ace of clubs” dream here.)

Pauli often makes dream interpretations along metaphysical lines, discussing the interrelations of psyche and matter. I believe this trinitarian form of thinking serves to compensate the quaternarian anima-world, but generally misses the point, namely the underlying current of introversion in the way of mors mystica.

First I am travelling in a train with Herr Bohr. Then I get off the train […] Now I look for a railroad station in order to travel to the left […] As I get on I see immediately “the dark young woman”, surrounded by strangers. [The] people say: “The next station is Esslingen; we are almost there.” I wake up very upset because we have traveled to such a totally uninteresting and dull location. (cf. Lindorff, 2004, p.124)

This dream is similar to von Franz’s Einsiedeln dream. Etymologically, the names Esslingen and Einsiedeln both refer to ‘lonely’ places, I believe. Like von Franz, Pauli is discontent with his dream. But, in truth, it hits the nail on the head. The introverted trinitarian path implies the mollification of the soul; to throw off intellectual and worldly attachments. St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and many other medieval mystics, explain that an aridity arises in the soul when the soul is purged and quenched. Pauli, and von Franz, have no taste for walking this seemingly saddening and tormenting path. Still, their dreams clearly point in that direction. In fact, even nature reminded Pauli of the Trinity. According to his colleague Marcus Fierz, Pauli experienced a change of mind when they, in 1946, saw three suns in the sky at Zürichhorn (cf. Lindorff, 2004, p.76).


On the whole, there’s no doubt that Jung’s three reputable analysands benefited much from their association with Jung. However, his personal convictions would also come to inhibit them. Henderson tried to tackle the problem by realizing the second half of the godhead, and therewith both poles in the state of individuation (vid. Henderson, 1967).

Von Franz, so it seems, fulfilled her “Arabic alchemy”, but never completed the “Christian alchemy”, representative of the realm of the trinitarian God. Much like Pauli, she compensates the quaternarian worldview by engaging in metaphysical speculations of a trinitarian nature (vid. von Franz, 1974). She came to endorse transcendental notions involving the ‘unus mundus’, the unfallen world at the first day of creation. Her achievement is admirable, but her dreams continued to challenge her consciousness in that they tried to emancipate her from C.G. Jung, the man who had “the same illness as she”.

Symbols of ‘mors mystica’ point towards a more radical solution than the views upheld by Jung and von Franz. The renouncement of much worldly involvement would be the radical course of individuation hinted at in the dreams. But Jung’s thoughts of ‘completeness’ postulate that the worldly and the spiritual can go hand in hand.

Conclusively, in the analytical relationship, a detrimental consequence of a continued relation could be that the analyst’s unconscious problem is communicated to the patient. In Pauli’s case, we can surmise that he took over Jung’s problem. Jung could not guide him, because he was himself blind in the realm of the introverted trinitarian spirit.


© Mats Winther (March 2007).


1. Self-analysis, and to use dream analysis and active imagination to this end, is a necessary prerequisite of the spiritual path. Jung’s more ambitious agenda for the integration of the unconscious, which he views as a spiritual way of redemption, is explicated in “Three Essays”, and elsewhere. It concerns the integration of archetypal complexes, in proper order. First the shadow, then the anima/animus, followed by the mana-personality (wise man/woman), behind which stands the Self. To this end the method of ‘active imagination’ shall be applied. This method allows the unconscious to respond directly.
   The question is, how many people actually follow this through? It reminds me of Immanuel Kant’s project. How many people have managed to put his moral philosophy into practice? I suspect, not a single person! The danger implicit in Jung’s method is that the archetypes of anima/animus, etc., are employed in a fantasy project where the artistic and aesthetic factors are dominant, and a true moral engagement recedes in the background. In that case Jung’s project becomes like Kant’s ambitious ideas, which are outmoded, today. In case of Jung, the degenerative effect of post-Jungian theory is a wholly logical consequence of the aesthetic seed within Jung’s thought itself. To build a relation to the archetype of the “wise man” would, not infrequently, develop into a mere fantasy activity, on lines of New Age.
   Such a playing activity could, in the long run, lead to stagnation, as the individuant becomes stuck in an illusion. This is why Christian mystics regarded it an amateur stage. It would play a role at an intermediate stage, a phase that the proselyte must pass through. As Pauli dreamt that, with him, the 2 turned to 3, so shall he pass through this phase. In Pauli’s dream, Jung’s 2 never turned to 3, probably because he lingered in the land of Merlin, “surrounded by women and children”.

2. The transference-countertransference phenomenon in therapy is not a mere “projection”. It often creates an unconscious bond between the two so that their souls, to a degree, “meld”. On account of this a very strong psychological dependency may develop between analyst and analysand. Although this may cause much problems, it also inspires a stronger commitment to the relation.

3. Henderson discusses the ‘archetype of initiation’ (his idea) and says that there are different initiation thresholds for the initiand to cross over in his journey through life; mother goddess, father god, etc. However, the shamanic type of initiation goes beyond this and includes the myth of transcendency.

4. Jung’s own view of St. John was clear-cut. James Kirsch once asked him whether John’s “dark night of the soul” was a process of individuation, and he replied, “John of the Cross’ ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ has nothing to do with this. Rather, integration is a conscious confrontation, a dialectical process…” (Adler, 1976, p.159).

5. I understand ‘mortification’ as the subjection and denial of the passions of the soul, including the bodily aspect. Mortification: the subjection and denial of bodily passions and appetites by abstinence or self-inflicted pain or discomfort (Webster’s Dictionary).

6. “…[Meditation] is a discursive action wrought by means of images, forms and figures that are fashioned and imagined by the said senses, as when we imagine Christ crucified, or bound to the column, or at another of the stations; or when we imagine God seated upon a throne with great majesty; or when we consider and imagine glory to be like a most beauteous light, etc.; or when we imagine all kinds of other things, whether Divine or human, that can belong to the imagination. All these imaginings must be cast out from the Soul, which will remain in darkness as far as this sense is concerned, that it may attain to Divine union […]
   For, although these considerations and forms and manners of meditation are necessary to beginners, in order that they may gradually feed and enkindle their souls with love by means of sense, as we shall say hereafter, and although they thus serve them as remote means to union with God, through which a soul has commonly to pass in order to reach the goal and abode of spiritual repose, yet they must merely pass through them, and not remain ever in them, for in such a manner they would never reach their goal, which does not resemble these remote means, neither has aught to do with them. The stairs of a staircase have naught to do with the top of it and the abode to which it leads, yet are means to the reaching of both […]
   And just so the soul that is to attain in this life to the union of that supreme repose and blessing, by means of all these stairs of meditations, forms and ideas, must pass though them and have done with them, since they have no resemblance and bear no proportion to the goal to which they lead, which is God […]
   Great, therefore, is the error of many spiritual persons who have practised approaching God by means of images and forms and meditations, as befits beginners. God would now lead them on to further spiritual blessings, which are interior and invisible, by taking from them the pleasure and sweetness of discursive meditation; but they cannot, or dare not, or know not how to detach themselves from those palpable methods to which they have grown accustomed. They continually labour to retain them, desiring to proceed, as before, by the way of consideration and meditation upon forms, for they think that it must be so with them always. They labour greatly to this end and find little sweetness or none; rather the aridity and weariness and disquiet of their souls are increased and grow, in proportion as they labour for that earlier sweetness. They cannot find this in that earlier manner, for the soul no longer enjoys that food of sense, as we have said; it needs not this but another food, which is more delicate, more interior and partaking less of the nature of sense; it consists not in labouring with the imagination, but in setting the soul at rest, and allowing it to remain in its quiet and repose, which is more spiritual.” (St John, “Ascent of Mount Carmel”, Book 2, ch.12).

7. Teresa of Avila, St John’s contemporary, showed more confidence in active imagination. For a comparison between the spiritual techniques of Jung and Teresa of Avila, see Welch, 1982.
   The works of St John, and especially his friend and colleague Teresa, show that they viewed spontaneous expressions of the unconscious as beneficial. But John’s foremost concern was that one must get past this phase and enter into the Dark Night of the Soul. In this, he followed the mystical tradition of medieval times. This is the phase of melancholy and dispiritedness which the alchemists called the ‘nigredo’ and which was very central to alchemy. To take Jung’s work on alchemy seriously, and to realize that this is not a form of New Age ritualistic playing activity, then it’s necessary to realize the very thoroughgoing nature of the nigredo. It’s the sloughing off of all attachment to the world, in order for the soul to be born afresh.
   Needless to say, this experience is very demanding, and it occurs at the expense of one’s personal life. St John speaks about the nigredo as a very distressing and radical process. He reveals the painful truth about the mystical path; that it is only for the élite. Yet, certain alchemical authors regards the nigredo in less dark tones, as more of a restful experience. To gather around Merlin, as displayed in Pauli’s dreams, and to remain in the land of ‘quartarius’, is not misguided. However, if the proselyte feels that the “aridity” arises in the soul, then he should know how to tackle this difficult problem, and not try and keep the soul artificially alive.

8. The following perspective expressed in a letter to Freud is unfledged, but it illustrates Jung’s quaternarian standpoint while the Christian myth is being interpreted exclusively in archaic terms:
   “…I imagine a far finer and more comprehensive task for [psychoanalysis] than alliance with an ethical fraternity. I think we must give it time to infiltrate into people from many centers, to revivify among intellectuals a feeling for symbol and myth, ever so gently to transform Christ back into the soothsaying god of the vine, which he was, and in this way absorb those ecstatic instinctual forces of Christianity for the one purpose of making the cult and the sacred myth what they once were — a drunken feast of joy where man regained the ethos and holiness of an animal. That was the beauty and purpose of classical religion, and from which God knows what temporary biological needs has turned into a Misery Institute. Yet what infinite rapture and wantonness lie dormant in our religion, waiting to be led back to their true destination! A genuine and proper ethical development cannot abandon Christianity but must grow up within it, must bring to fruition its hymn of love, the agony and ecstasy over the dying and resurgent god, the mystic power of the wine, the awesome antropophagy of the Last Supper — only this ethical development can serve the vital forces of religion.” (McGuire, 1994, letter 178J).


In the history of Christian mysticism there are many examples of concretistic misinterpretation, such as self-flagellation. After all, it is understandable that Jung and von Franz disparaged the medieval form of spirituality. Yet, I have argued that they threw the baby out with the bathwater. Christianity is underestimated as a mystery religion and a personal spiritual path. Still, after two millennia, western man unconsciously declines the path of the “Man of Sorrows”. When the spirit has died in the heart, all that remains is a false facade of Christian uprightness. The path of suffering, death, and crucifixion, was not to the taste of Jung either. It remains a serious problem in Jung’s psychology and in the Western psyche. As a curiosity, I want to relate a dream of mine from long ago, about Jung.

I found myself in a small medieval stone church whose walls were whitewashed and sparsely decorated (of which there are many in Sweden). It was not that impressive, but C.G. Jung evidently wanted to visit it. He appeared shorter than I expected, and he was old, at least 65. There was an arch-shaped alcove on the wall. In it was sculpted a stone face with a thinly lined cross over it. Under the alcove was fastened a plain strip of brass. A woman entered (who seemed to belong to Jung’s company). She promptly removed the brass strip and fastened instead a brass decoration with vine grapes and leaves. Jung exclaimed: “Ach! Das ist viel besser.” (Alas! That is much better.)

The church probably represents the Christian spirit or civilization. The alcove contains the image of the Self. It is being improved with a brass decoration less plain and boring and more close to the Bacchic(?) spirit. Jung speaks German because the dream wants to relate that it is actually Jung’s spirit who is visiting. The little church is true to the Christian spirit in the sense that it is very frugal; it speaks of simpleness. There is no gold, but only a simple brass decoration. Arguably, Jung’s spirit wants to visit such a place, because he underestimated this aspect of the Christian spirit in his lifetime. Jung appears shorter than expected. Presumably, it compensates for a personal overestimation in some sense.

I also have an alternative explanation for this. It could be a symbolical equivalent to the brass, as his spirit wants to take part in true simplicity. Brass is an alloy of zinc and copper. Thus it is a conjunctive symbol, where the zinc is Luna and copper is Sol. While the marriage of Sol and Luna is more commonly symbolized by (quick-) silver and gold, my dream replaces these with baser metals. Again, it’s simplicity that is being emphasized. Whereas gold and silver are heavenly in origin, copper and zinc are more earthly. I thought of the alcove with the four-partitioned image of the Self as Jung’s own contribution to the church, his legacy in our civilization. However, he wanted to come back and have something corrected, namely to remove the brass rod below it and put the brass vine there instead.

M. Winther.


Adler, G. (ed.) (1976). C.G. Jung Letters, Volume 2: 1951-1961. Princeton/Bollingen.

Boa, F. (1994). The Way of the Dream. Shambala.

Franz, M-L von (1997). Archetypal Patterns in Fairy Tales. Inner City Books, University of Toronto Press.

    -------   (1998). C.G. Jung - His Myth in our Time. Inner City Books, University of Toronto Press.

    -------   (1974). Number and Time. London: Rider & Company.

    -------   (1987). On Dreams & Death. Boston & London: Shambala.

Henderson, J. L. (1967). Thresholds of Initiation. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.

Isler G. (2004). ‘Eulogy for Marie-Louise von Franz’ (here).

John of the Cross, St. (15??). Dark Night of the Soul.

    -------            (15??). Ascent of Mount Carmel.

Jung, C.G. (1977). Mysterium Coniunctionis. Bollingen Series. Princeton University Press.

  ------- (1989). Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Vintage.

  ------- (1980). Psychology and Alchemy. Bollingen Series. Princeton University Press.

  ------- (1972). Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. Bollingen Series. Princeton University Press.

  ------- (2009). The Red Book. W. W. Norton & Company.

Lindorff, D. (2004). Pauli and Jung - The Meeting of Two Great Minds. Quest Books: Wheaton, Illinois.

McGuire W. (ed.) (1994). The Freud/Jung Letters: The Correspondence between Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung. Princeton/Bollingen.

Meier, C.A. (2001). Atom and Archetype - The Pauli/Jung Letters. Princeton University Press.

Pauli, W. (1955). ‘The influence of Archetypal Ideas on the Scientific Theories of Kepler’ in Jung and Pauli (eds), The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Teresa of Avila (15??). Interior Castle.

Tresan D. (2007). ‘Thinking individuation forward’. Journal of Analytical Psychology 52 (1), 17–40 (here).

Wagner, S., Whitney, M. et al. (1985). Matter of Heart. A film published by Kino International Corporation.

Welch, J. (1982). Spiritual Pilgrims: Carl Jung and Teresa of Avila. Paulist Press International.

unknown (13??). The Cloud of Unknowing (here).

See also:

Winther, M. (2011). ‘The Complementarian Self’. (Jung’s dream about “kneeling before the highest” presence is discussed, here).

  -------       (2012). ‘Critique of Synchronicity’. (A critique of the unitarian Self and certain metaphysical aspects of Jung’s worldview, here).