Big dream 3 Carl Jung

Carl Jung The Red Book – Mandala of The holistic Self

Carl Jung – whose whole work on dreams is remarkable, recorded a number of his own ‘big dreams’. The dream Jung had of Liverpool, came at the end of his personal experimentation with descending into the depths of the unconscious. This experience brought Jung to the edge of madness, and was precipitated by his disagreements and traumatic break from Sigmund Freud, when Jung had to let go of all his achievements including the presidency of the International Psychoanalytic Association, a journal editorship, and, work at the University of Zurich. With his public reputation tarnished he felt isolated, and there were marital difficulties. ‘I was living in a constant state of tension; often I felt as if gigantic blocks of stone were tumbling down upon me. One thunderstorm followed another’.

Jung’s experiment began with a regression into childhood, and profound introversion, where Jung ‘dropped’ into fantasies encountering symbolic figures, writing, drawing, analysing and trying to understand what emerged from his unconscious. He called this active imagination. Through drawings and in particular drawing of mandalas he began to understand that the goal of all psychic development is the Self: ‘I knew that in finding the mandala as an expression of the Self I had attained what was for me the ultimate.’

Finally, the whole extraordinary experiment ended with a dream:

‘I found myself in a dirty, sooty city. It was night and winter, and dark, and raining. I was in Liverpool. With a number of Swiss – say, half a dozen – I walked through the dark streets. I had the feeling we were coming up from the harbour, and that the real city was actually up above, on the cliffs. We climbed up there … When we reached the plateau, we found a broad square dimly illuminated by street lights, into which many streets converged. The various quarters of the city were arranged radially around the square. In the centre was a round pool, and in the middle of it a small island. While everything round about was obscured by rain, fog, smoke, and dimly lit darkness, the little island blazed with sunlight. On it stood a single tree, a magnolia, in a shower of reddish blossoms. It was as though the tree stood in sunlight and was at the same time the source of light.’

In the dream Jung’s companions, comment on the abominable weather surprised that another Swiss had settled in Liverpool, but Jung carried away by the beauty of the sunlit island and the flowering tree thought: ‘I know very well why he has settled here.’ The darkness and fog represented the black opaqueness of what Jung had gone through, but he had been given an image of unearthly beauty, and with that he could go on living in the ‘pool of life’:

‘I saw here the goal had been revealed … The dream depicted the climax of the whole process of development of consciousness. It satisfied me completely … Without such a vision I might perhaps have lost my orientation and been compelled to abandon my undertaking. But here the meaning had been made clear. When I parted from Freud, I knew that I was plunging into the unknown. Beyond Freud, after all, I knew nothing; but I had taken a step into darkness. When that happens, and then such a dream comes, one feels it as an act of grace.’