There is a strange and unusual account from the Jungian analyst Vera von der Heydt about Carl Jung’s reaction to her religious vision which I think is worth sharing as part of this discussion about the overlap between spirituality and psychotherapy. Vera von der Heydt writes how during her analytic training in Zurich she was on her way to a seminar when she became aware she was crying, and had the sensation she was bleeding from the upper part of her body…she was not and though distressed went on to her seminar though feeling very strange. The same thing happened the next day, but this time there was blood coming from a small wound under her heart and from wounds all along her arm. This time she felt great fear and rang her analyst who told her to go to bed and that she would arrange a session for Vera directly with Jung. As Vera was going to her home she passed the chapel where she went regularly for Mass and went in surprised to see a priest enter and begin to say Mass at the main altar. When the priest turned round Vera saw that it was Christ. She writes,
‘In a curious way this seemed right to me. When the moment of taking Communion came, I walked up to the altar rails; He gave me the Host and then offered me the Chalice; this was too much, I drew back, but He insisted and so I drank; it was very, very bitter. And after that He was no longer there, and the chapel quite empty. I went home, but could not stop myself from crying.’
The next morning Vera told Jung everything that had happened. He listened very carefully and asked her many questions, such as whether she had had similar experiences, whether she was frightened of blood, when and what she had felt about her periods, her sexual relationship with her husband, the menopause and when she had had a hysterectomy and many other questions encouraging her to remember and associate with feelings and bodily pain. She writes that after an hour she felt back in her body, and was no longer afraid, indeed she felt very peaceful. ‘We sat in silence for a bit, and then Jung got up and told me that he had to leave me. He stretched out his hand, took mine, and smiled and said: “I think that is all, isn’t it?”’
Vera von der Heydt concludes that Jung had accepted the language of her senses and of her body, ‘he had taken my hurt, my wounds seriously and helped me to dwell on them and to recognise them as belonging to my life and to my totality. And my mystical experience he had given supreme value to by not discussing it. I felt healed in the deepest sense of the word: for the first time I really understood that healing is a process that is a constant transformation when one is sufficiently awake to remember all the different parts of one’s being.’
She implies that this awakening and recognition of being alive can happen both through analytical psychology and found through spiritual awakening.…. It is all part of the same journey.