Toward the end of his life, Jung was interviewed by John Freeman in the BBC film, Face to Face. Jung discussed his life, work, thoughts about God and religion, and his relationship with Freud. At one point, Freeman asked if Freud had ever discussed his own dreams with Jung, and Jung replied that yes, such conversations were part of their relationship. Freeman then asked if Jung would analyze one of Freud’s dreams. Jung refused, stating that it would be inappropriate to reveal such information. He believed that details about one’s private life should not be made public, even after death. Jung was quite firm and strong in his decision to maintain Freud’s privacy and integrity.
Now with the release of Jung’s Red Book, we find that many of his own intensely personal thoughts, fantasies and private inner processes have been made public. Now I am sure that the people involved in this project have many reasons for releasing this material, but a few important questions need to be asked. Is this publication in keeping with Jung’s deep regard for the privacy of one’s inner world? What is the objective psyche’s reaction to publishing this book? What is the real significance of making this material public? Is there really much of value that the Jungian community can gain from glimpsing this side of Jung’s unconscious life? Will it truly deepen our understanding of the psyche? I am sure the goals of this project are admirable, but the editors may have neglected to consider its unconscious implications.
It was interesting to read, in the New York Times Magazine article, about the dreams constellated around this book. The writer of the piece cites her own dream, of attending to a barbecue where an elephant’s head is on the grill. This is a profound dream, and reveals as much about the dreamer’s psyche as it does about the unconscious meaning of this publishing project. While a barbecue can be an enjoyable experience, a fun social event, I have never heard of an elephant being offered in such a manner. Elephants are symbolic of great wisdom, as we see in the Indian god Ganesha. So looking at this dream, one is compelled to ask, “What is it that is being sacrificed?” Something that is sacred, something that in reality is far too large, too grand, and too special to be put on a grill. We then have to wonder what kind of grill (that is, what kind of psychological structure) would ever be large enough to contain something as enormous as an elephant’s head? I don’t believe that such a structure exists. Viewed from this vantage point, the dream may be capturing the psyche’s understanding that something which should NOT BE SACRIFICED has been slaughtered, and offered to the masses. At this point in time, we collectively have not developed a psychological structure that can adequately manage a process as powerful and dynamic as witnessing the workings of Jung’s inner life.
Another way to approach this subject is to ask how we would feel if after our death, our most private thoughts, fantasies, inclinations and behaviors were made public? How would this affect our families, our loved ones, and our spirit, which may continue to live on in some domain? The private world is just that – private, and these areas need to be respectfully left alone. With these thoughts, I would like to begin a dialogue around this issue, in light of our work reading archetypal patterns and learning to discern the meaning of the psyche on a deeper level.