A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Bollingen Tower: Kindling A Light

At Bollingen, I am in the midst of my true life, I am most deeply myself. CARL GUSTAV JUNG

Bollingen Tower, Lake Zürich

I'll end my series on literary and spiritual 'towers' with the tower built by the Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung. In 1922 Jung began work on a spiritual retreat near the village of Bollingen on the northern shore of Lake Zürich — which became known as Bollingen Tower. He kept enlarging the house over a period of many years. His intention was to create an architectural symbol for the structure of the human psyche: the whole conscious and unconscious mind. After the death of his wife in 1955 Jung added a second storey, which for him represented an extension of consciousness achieved in old age. As a child, Jung had often imagined a castle on an island in a lake — a symbol of the unconscious inner stronghold of the self. Now his dream had become a physical reality.

Jung spent several months a year at Bollingen, where he was able to fulfil his great need for solitude. His life there was of utter simplicity: he cooked, chopped wood, fetched water from the well, sailed boats on the lake. He painted murals and carved in stone. Most of all he went deep within himself, into the dark recesses of his mind. He encountered universal archetypal figures such as the 'anima' figure of Salome, and the 'animus' figure of Philomen, whom he identified as his personal, spiritual guide. And he described these psychic discoveries in the manuscript that was published much later (in 2009) as the Liber Novus or The Red Book.

I've been fascinated by Jung ever since I read his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, in my early twenties; and I'm constantly amazed how contemporary his ideas still feel. He did much research into the field of symbols and dream interpretation. He explored alchemy, astrology, the occult, literature, sociology and Eastern philosophy. He originated the terms 'extrovert', 'introvert', 'synchronicity' and 'collective unconscious'. Jungian thought still permeates our current concerns with personality, the self, the causes and cures of neurosis and psychosis, and the spiritual life.

As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. CARL GUSTAV JUNG

Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people. CARL GUSTAV JUNG

A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them. CARL GUSTAV JUNG

Thanks go to Ruth for inspiring this post.

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)


Ruth said...

Oh thank you for posting about Bollingen. I was really taken with this tower when I read Memories, Dreams, Reflections a few years ago. The primitive and primordial sense of the place, of having to fetch firewood and keep it warm, just felt so essential as a soul place, a source place. To build an altar like this, a representation of the self, to build a second storey to symbolize the extension of consciousness!

Brilliant series.

am said...

Thanks for this post and to Ruth for inspiring this post and to my mother for giving me a copy of Memories, Dreams, Reflections when I was in my early 30s, and for giving me C.G. Jung: Word and Image a few years later. He didn't think of himself as an artist, but I have found his paintings and carvings to be more moving than most. It is likely that I first heard of him when I read his introduction in the Wilhelm translation of the I-Ching when I was 18 years old. This, too, fascinates me:


It may be a little bit of synchronicity that it is not yet morning, and I am awake because I had a dream that was important enough to write down. Once I wrote it down, I couldn't go to back to sleep. I may be able to go back to sleep now.

Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people. CARL GUSTAV JUNG

Val said...

thanks for this fascinating post; i need to read MDR; maybe it helps to make sense of some stuff; i love the castle in the lake.

George said...

An absolutely magnificent post, Robert. I have always greatly admired Jung, and I admire him even more after reading this piece. The story of Bollingen tower and its symbolism to Jung is fascinating.

I've been reading a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and I was surprised to learn that Bonhoeffer's father, Karl Bonhoeffer, who was at one time the most prominent psychiatrist and neurologist in Germany, was very dismissive of Jung's work, as he was of the work of Freud. When I read this, I found myself perplexed because Jung's work has always had, at least for me, an unmistakable ring of truth to it.

I'm curious to know if you have read "The Red Book." I remember when it was published—a couple of years ago, I think—and I thought at the time that I would like to read it.

The Solitary Walker said...

Ruth, yes, it's a wonderful book. I must get another copy as mine fell to pieces some time ago.

Thanks, am, for your long and interesting comment. You have to write these things down, don't you? Otherwise they're gone in the morning. Hope you have a good night's sleep tonight.

Thanks for your visit, Val. Yes, that book puts a lot of things into focus, I think.

The Solitary Walker said...

I haven't read 'The Red Book', George, but must get hold of it. I too remember it being published a few years ago. I think Jung was very much against his original manuscript being published, and took all possible means to prevent its publication — which is partly why it took so long to see the light of day.

The Solitary Walker said...

Oh, and Ruth, many thanks for all your recent catch-up comments! They were very much appreciated, believe me — sorry I haven't responded to them all individually.

Anonymous said...

"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." Indeed...It sounds very familiar for me. As a prayer I did a time to open and see the darkness and let being ! Thanks SW for this towers's series, fascinating! Mick

Ruth said...

It was all my pleasure, believe me.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your comment, Mick. Glad you enjoyed the series!

Alive said...

A Dangerous Method, is in cinemas next week i think. A film about Jung and Freud, you may like to see.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for the info, Alive.

Alive said...