I found myself sleeping but instead of being in my bed I was resting on a grassy knoll at the edge of a forest. In ancient times the edge of forests was where people left food and offerings for their beloved departed souls, who would come out of Hades for a brief moment in an attempt to return to their past life to visit the people they had left behind.
As I wondered if someone would visit me I saw two bright blue eyes looking straight at me. "Master!" I shouted in joyous recognition, for those intense eyes staring straight at me unflinchingly could only be the eyes of Carl Jung. I had never met him in real life. He died in 1961. But I had spent many years reading and imbibing his books. There are only a few I have not read and for many years he influenced me deeply.
"So you recognise me!" He laughed, half shutting his eyes while his mouth twisted into a wry smile.
"How could I not recognise you!" I exclaimed laughing back. It felt so good to laugh. It was the most natural reaction in the world. What else would a person do except laugh when meeting Carl Jung unexpectedly on the edge of the forests of Lethe, half between sleep and wakefulness?
"Shall I join you?" he asked, "Or would you like to come into the woods with me?"
I did not hesitate but jumped up and tried to walk through the small ledge between two trees. I felt the resistance of a barrier, something I could not see but which held me out, like a force field. "Come." he said, extending his hand to me. I took it gladly and felt pulled through a momentary bubble which did not break but parted to let me through with a loud 'plop'. I saw fields upon fields of asphodels around me but quickly they vanished and I was not certain what I was looking at because the landscape was too strongly lit and I had to close my eyes.
"Are you willing to pay the price?" he asked.
"What will it be?"
"Madness, headaches, pain, possibly death."
"I am already mad," I laughed. "It is too late. I am through, now."
"What makes you say you are mad?" he asked.
I shrugged. "Isn't it obvious? Only a mad person would pry where angels fear to tread."
"It takes curiosity rather than madness," he mused. "Most are curious about what happens next but only those who are obssessed to the point of losing interest in life in order to follow their morbid passion become mad."
"Otherwise it is healthy to wonder?"
"Didn't Adler show it is unavoidable and everything depends on whether a person submits with grace to the inevitable or tries to conquer instead of accepting the end?" We were flowing through a landscape which seemed the opposite to the one I had just left. There the soil had been dark brown, the trees green, the sky blue. Here colours shifted, according to how I blinked my eyes. Everything was every colour. It was too confusing. "Woah..." I moaned, feeling as if I was sinking into a whirlpool of sensations. He grabbed my arm and pulled me upward. "You have to concentrate on one thing at a time," he told me, or you become involved in everything and lose your being. Hold on to me and concentrate only on what you wish to say without paying attention to the myriad thoughts and experiences which whirl around us."
At that moment I was aware of vague floating mis-shapen forms swirling around us, calling out mockeries and obscenities. "Look at her! Ha! Ha! The goat, the she devil who thinks she can enter our realm before her time!" The things they were saying melted into incoherence and became grunts, cries, shouted monologues without any meaning.
"Concentrate!" I heard Jung's voice ringing out of the cacophany with the timbre of a bell.
I forced myself to follow the direction from which his voice was coming and looked back with determination into his blue, blue eyes. Suddenly a bolt of doubt jack knifed through me. What was I playing at, leaving the realm of the living so casually? What if he was a wraith and not Jung at all, luring me to my damnation?
"Concentrate!" his voice rang out even louder. "Pay no attention to the siren voices or you will be lured into their state - half formed and ever wanting."
I looked at him again and he smiled. "Here you need strength to keep your wits about you," his voice reverberated around us. "It can be done with practice and perserverance. Is there anything you wish to ask me?"
There were so many things I wanted to speak to him about. How did he feel about his ideas? Had his notion of the shadow and archetypes been correct as far as he could see? Had he veered into gnosticism and how did he feel about that? Was he angry that he was widely thought of as a Nazi collaborator? Had he regretted having a wife and a mistress? Did he believe in reincarnation? Did he think the fruitful opening between the Western and Eastern doctrines produce a new unity or had they been squandered by self indulgent hippies who had dabbled with Eastern religions like Buddhism only to manipulate them to their own self centred requirements?
He laughed out loud, as if he had heard all my thoughts. "Let me tell you something," he said. "When we are on earth we try our best to understand things with a limited perception. We are flawed because our feelings delude us and our pain gives us wishful fantasies that things are not as they really are." I looked at him in amazement that he should have read my mind. "Why are you so surprised? Do you not think your thoughts are visible on your face? Do you think these are not the thoughts I too have pondered?"
"What is your answer to my questions then?"
"Looking back I realise I was correct and not correct. My ideas were the best I could do at the time. I wished to peel away the layers of consciousness which make up a human soul, until the inner, unconscious core, stands out in its irrational complexity and glory. I was motivated by seeing my mother speak to ghosts at night and realising that she had two personalities: one rational and one hateful. When I was four years old I realised I too had personality number one and personality number two and I was mad like my mother, so I needed to cure myself fast in order to grow up and study at the gymnasium and at the university and so become a man of account. I wanted to understand why some are introverted and some extraverted. I wanted to undertsand why so many respected leaders of their communities are tyrannical in their homes. I wanted to know why mankind has this hugely oppressive history of dark inhumanity and barbarism hanging over us like a shadow, threatening to extinguish whatever we achieved as civilisation.
"My work was a first step. People say I made many of my patients madder than they were. I refute this. They had a purpose to their lives when they visited me in the morning to have an appointment to talk about their inner problems. In the afternoon they visited Antonia, my beloved soulmate, for their session with a soothing mother, who would talk to the patients about their social and relationship problems. It worked well for the patients. I was the father figure who spoke about religion and internal problems. Antonia spoke to them about social and personal problems. "As for the triangle between my beloved Emma and Antonia..." he shrugged. "What can I say? Both women suffered but what was I to do? I loved them both. Both were good psychoanalysts and worked hard at what they did."
"Dare I ask if that triangle has been resolved?"
"Ho! Ho!" he laughed. "You are a daring one to poke into people's pasts but since you ask, all I can say is that as each of us died the pain ebbed away and became a distant memory."
I looked at him, silently, wondering if I dared go on. "As for the accusations of being a Nazi collaborator, people do not understand that when evil takes over a country, everyone is tainted. Everyone is responsible for the spilt blood. All that blood split since the dinosaurs ruled the earth, who will pay for it? Who can pay for the effects of slavery and all the horrors of every war and the oppression of whole continents of people as in Africa? People are alive today who benefitted from the British Empire. Do they wear sack cloth and ashes?"
His eyes grew darker, even black with what appeared to be anger. "The accusation that I was a Nazi fellow traveller stem from evidence such as a magazine article I wrote 1918. I drew distinctions between Jewish and German psyches to illustrate the variety of heritable elements of the collective unconscious. When Aryans reread the article in the 1930s, they distorted it out of all proportion. Further, they glossed over another observation, that the German psyche had "barbarian" tendencies, which I showed in my reflection on the 1914-18 war. They also missed my main point that the unconscious should be taken very seriously. It can drive the death of millions.
"I was also accused of complying with the Nazi authorities, in particular with Matthias Göring, the man who became the leader of organised psychotherapy in Germany, not least because he was the cousin of Hermann Göring. In fact, Matthias put my name to pro-Nazi statements without my knowledge. I was furious, not least because I was actually fighting to keep German psychotherapy open to Jewish individuals. And that was not all. I was even involved in two plots to oust Hitler, essentially by having a leading physician declare the Führer mad. Both came to nothing. On top of all that I operated as a spy for the OSS (the predecessor to the CIA). I was called "Agent 488" and my handler, Allen W. Dulles, later remarked: 'Nobody will probably ever know how much Prof Jung contributed to the allied cause during the war'. A grave injustice has been done to my name. I was not and never could be a Nazi collaborator. Nazism was and is an abomination."
I looked into his deep blue black eyes and shook my head. " I am deeply sorry I ever listened to those lies."
"It was a high price I paid. Many people are not always aware of the cost of being an honest man on this earth."
He looked old and tired and seemed to fade a little from view, as if he was melting away, except for his eyes.
"Has anyone paid the blood price of being on this earth?" I asked.
"The price was the Crucifixion and yes the price has been paid."
At that moment everything changed. I suddenly found myself on the floor. It was darkest night. I had fallen out of bed. But I still thought I saw that pair of deepest blue eyes boring into my own eyes. He was still smiling.
"Bye Professor Jung," I muttered. A feeling of warmth passed through me as if I had been hugged. Picking myself up I climbed into bed and fell asleep to dream of shifting landscapes that merged and drifted into each other.www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfr…
See also Margaret Atwood, 'The Penelopiad', chapter V, "Asphodels, where the idea that heaven is a place where fields of asphodels bloom eternally and boringly. Atwood refer to 'The Odyssey' Books 22 and 24 where first occurs the notion that the living take food to the dells between trees so tat their beloved dead can come and find refreshment.