Wednesday, September 5, 2018

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.

Text adapted from Sidewalk Oracles by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

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