Sunday, February 21, 2016

The stone Jung's builders rejected


Jung dreamed of a tower and he built it, on old church land at the edge of the village of Bollingen, on the shore of the Obersee basin of Lake Z├╝rich. He started work soon after his mother’s death in 1923. What began as a simple neo-medieval tower with a pointed roof grew, in successive waves of inspiration and construction, into a small castle. Jung embarked on the final phase of construction after his wife Emma’s death in 1955, adding a high upper room he called the chapel to the middle building between what were now two towers. He painted the walls with scenes of other times, and filled the room with things that took him “out of time, out of the present.”
    He always refused to install electricity and indoor plumbing. He lived here like a farmer of an earlier time, pumping his own water, chopping wood for his fire, lighting his candles and oil lamps, cooking his hearty stews. He spent several months of the year at Bollingen. He came for solitude and simplicity, leaving behind his patients, his lecture room audiences, and his persona as professor and professional analyst. He went about in old, comfortable clothes, and was often to be seen in overalls and even, on occasion, washing a pair of jeans. He did the best of his creative writing here in the last period of his life.
     Very often, if you were nearby, you could hear the tap of Jung’s chisel or the clang of his hammer. He worked here with stone as well as paper, covering many surfaces with images and inscriptions. He called the whole place his “confession in stone”. Some of the things he carved were there for any visitor to see, some were hidden. One of the hidden inscriptions read in Latin Philemonis sacrum Faust poenetentia [sic] which means “Sanctuary of Philemon, Penitence of Faust”. 
     Philemon was the name by which Jung knew the spiritual guide whose importance is fully revealed in the Red Book, the guide who, as he wrote, convinced him of the objective reality of the psyche and its productions. Philemon is also the name, in the myth, of a kindly old man who gives hospitality to gods who are traveling in disguise – and is killed, together with his gentle wife, through the greed and megalomania of Faust, the model of heedless Western man, in Part II of Goethe’s Faust.
     When he was writing his essay on synchronicity, Jung carved the face of a laughing Trickster on the west wall of the original tower.
     Jung’s confession in stone contains many images that spark fire in the imagination but do not immediately yield explanation, except where Jung has added words, always in Greek or Latin, which he read fluently. Here is a woman reaching for the udder of a mare. Here is a bear behind her, apparently rolling a ball. Here is Salome. Here is a family crest.
      The best story of Jung’s stone work involves the block that was not supposed to be delivered. Jung wanted to build a wall for his garden. He engaged a mason who gave exact measurements for the stones required to the owner of a quarry while Jung was standing by. The stones were delivered by boat. 
     When unloaded, it was clear at once that there had been a major mistake. The cornerstone was not triangular, as ordered. It was a perfect cube of much larger dimensions, about twenty inches thick. Enraged, the mason ordered the workmen to reload this block on the boat. Jung intervened, saying, “That is my stone! I must have it.” He knew at once that the stone his mason had rejected would suit him perfectly for a purpose he did not yet understand.
     Fairly soon, he decided to chisel a quotation from one of his beloved alchemists on one side of the cube. But something deeper was stirring, through affinity between Jung and the stone itself. On a second face of the stone, he saw something like a tiny eye, looking at him. He chiseled a definite eye. 
    Around it he carved the shape of a little hooded figure, a homunculus. He had a name for this figure, Telesphoros. The name means “one who guides to completion”. In Greek mythology, he is a son of Asklepios, the patron of dream healing. This figure was a recurring archetype in Jung’s inner life, one he sought to give physical form with pen and chisel and, as a boy, with a pocket knife. When he was ten years old, Jung carved a little manikin of this kind from a school ruler and kept it hidden in a box. He regarded this as his first great secret in life, and “the climax and conclusion” of his childhood. 


     Now, around Telesphoros, he chiseled words in Greek that came to him. In Memories Dreams Reflections they are translated as follows:

Time is a child – playing like a child – playing a board game – the kingdom of the child. This is Telesphoros, who roams through the dark regions of this cosmos and glows like a star out of the depths. He points the way to the gates of the sun and to the land of dreams.

The broken first sentence is a loose translation of one of the most mysterious and compelling fragments of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Key words are open to rival translations. The word Jung renders as time is aion for which “time” is perhaps not a strong enough rendering. A recent translation of the line from Heraclitus offers this: “Lifetime is a child at play, moving pieces on a board. Kingship belongs to the child.” 
      I wonder whether Jung played with the idea, as he chiseled, that what Heraclitus was talking about was a secret law of manifestation, perhaps none other than what Jung dubbed synchronicity. Beyond logic, beyond causation as it is commonly understood, the play of forces outside time determines what happens within the human experience of time. Play is what we must be most serious about. Play in the spirit of the child, who plays without concern for consequences, because the play is the thing.      
     So, I suggest: “Synchronicity is a child at play, moving pieces on a board.” On our side of reality, we see the pieces move, but not the hand that moves them or casts them.


Merlin's cry

One side of Jung's cube remains blank. He said near the end of his life that he had an idea for it, never realized: "Do you know what I wanted to chisel into the back face of the stone? “Le cri de Merlin!” For what the stone expressed reminded me of Merlin’s life in the forest, after he had vanished from the world. Men still hear his cries, so the legend runs, but they cannot understand or interpret them."


Adapted from Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library. All rights reserved.

5 comments:

Patricia said...

The Reflecting Stones

Last night I was a traveler. I came to this large tent to rest. These "robed witnessers" guided me to a room where I laid down. It was relaxing, like a meditation. Two carved stone cubes hovered above me. One just to the side of the top of my shoulder and side of my neck. The other above my heart on the left. When the robed ones hummed the cubes would move in their places. Then the witnessers would stop to talk among themselves. All I heard was "see how they reflect each other". I felt so rested and got up to walk down a hallway to find some active dreamers to tell the dream to. I found an older woman and a man who wore this hat that I thought was from an Arabian country. But I think it wasn't because he giggled at me when I said that. After they played with the dream with me in a most delightful lit cottage, he gave me his hat and sent me on my way. I knew he knew things I did not. I was happy for the gift of his hat.

Feeling: welcomed, supported

Curious about the cubed stones.

I am about to google to see if I can match the designs. Will get some clay that I can bake in the oven and play with cubes and designs.

Patricia said...

PS: Interesting after re reading this. I only remember one design.

I found it but can't figure out how to show it here. The one image that looks most like it is a celtic maze design, Decorated in spirals, leaves and acorns in the corners. My dream design did not have writing along the borders. The one I found on google says: Leads not only to the center, But to the center of oneself, the path of the labyrinth. Not so sure about the words or even the decorative corners, but that design, yes. Has me wondering about the hallway in the dream. The man sending me on my way sent me out doors. Where I ended up on a lane in a hover sling of the same teal color from the googled design. I held this hoover riding seat up by holding the handles on each side.

Robert Moss said...

The double cube is the traditional form of the altar in Western ceremonial magic.

Patricia said...

So very interesting. I googled and what draws my attention is the cubes representing the micro and macro cosmos, as above so below and as the 10Sephirot or Tree of Life. I am reading a book by Maria Kvilhaug called The Seed of Yggdrasill. To hear in the dream, see how they reflect each other seems a good sign. I would never have thought double cubes as altar. Very interesting twist for me. When I walked out of the tent I thought, they were like apostles. I knew that apostle was not exactly the right word to say though. They were neutral, kind and matter of fact. They did not talk to me, just themselves. The humming was neither light and melodic, nor dreadfully serious and monotone. It was like the cubes came from my body, so that is interesting also.

Patricia said...

Last comment:

I am working with my body and the distinction of my body as an Altar, instead of a Temple. I am not throwing the work I have done as my body as temple out the window. I find my body as altar to be more personal and drawing in a more selective community sharing of myself.
Here's my prayerful play today. I wake up and look at my naked body in the mirror. I see how my knees are discolored from having bloodied them all my young childhood. I hear my families voice saying words to me like clumbsy, spacey, strange and wyrd. I go get my lotion and rub this area lovingly and say I'll keep that word Wyrd. Wyrd: to become, to know the web that joins the movements of this world to other worlds, to be an affecter of the morphic fields, a most lovely dreamer. Thank you sweet knees for coordinating movement from and to the mat in the 30 years I have spent being a healer for young children. Thank you for carrying movement and stability between my feet and hips.
Yesterday when my mother could not step in with me to see how the victim thought form creates dis ease in our family, she called me strange. I told her she was welcome to call me wyrd and I told her my definition of wyrd. I also said how wryd it was that of the four of us sisters, I do not carry inflammatory dis ease in my life. How I stepped away from the lupus diagnoses years ago.