$2.95 Circa 1963
This copy of my favorite book by one of my favorite authors went for $2.95, circa 1964. I just borrowed Memories, Dreams and Reflections, from Lisa (who tells me that Jung is the hero she's going to write about, too). The book has the same cover as when I read it in 1972: Jung, smoking a pipe, shuffling through a manuscript, a tie at his neck and smoke drifting past his left cheek. My memories of 1972 are "islands afloat in a sea of vagueness" (to quote Jung); inchoate memory-postcards with the beaches north of Eureka California on them, or the rain and fog that accompanied life there eleven months of the year. Eureka was gloomy, mysterious, rundown and far from another urban center - a perfect place to contemplate Jung's life and his contemplations of his own unconscious.
I returned to Memories, Dreams and Reflections in 2004, and it changed my life again. Now I may read it a third time (for the last twelve years I knew I would). Perhaps I'll read it even more slowly than before. In fact, I've just read Jung's two-page prologue two times, and am about to read it a third. It's not only that what he writes is mostly riveting, its also because Jung is as good a non-fiction writer as anyone: "In the end the only events in my life worth telling are those when the imperishable world irrupted into this transitory one." That's exactly what happened to me in 2004, when I carried Memories Dreams and Reflections on a three-month excursion though Thailand and Cambodia. I'd grabbed the book at the last-minute - only a hunch, an accident, a synchronicity breadcrumb - and it turned out to be the indispensable companion to my own irruptions and glimpses of the imperishable.
Maybe it was Memories, Dreams and Reflections that set me on an eight-year era of frequent and extended travel when I turned fifty, for Jung's writings about his own travels are perhaps the most arresting part of the book, certainly the most compellingly written. I'd like to share a selection of Jung's observations about Rome, because of its telling beauty and because when I went there Rome came alive for me in at least a glimmer of the way it might have been for him (Jung never made it to Rome):
I did make it to Rome: January 2005. I was lit up for a week. Walked the city from mid-morning until late at night. I saw the Colosseum on my first day, men dressed like soldiers from ancient Rome carried rubber swords. Later, when I dreamt that night, the men dressed in Roman Legion outfits made Rome and its history very real and I could hear the original soldiers shouting, their shields clanking together... To read Memories, Dreams and Reflections is to enter countless reveries of one's own, the dream-time of the book evoking them and merging with them.
. . .
A synchronicity (we thank Jung for the word) intercepted me last night through a conversation with a friend who didn't like Jung because he "did't lead an honorable life." I asked her why? "He created a cult, brooked no criticism from students, and lived in the same house with his mistress and wife." I suddenly felt like a fool since I'd just told her Jung was a hero, but managed to recover and respond that most charismatic teachers develop cults (or cult-likes), that his relation relationship with Toni Wolff wat not hidden, that some are polygamous and who knows what it was like. I told er we're all complex and most "great" people are more so. She held her ground though we did not argue and I left needing to know more.
The next day I looked up "Jung and cult" on Google and right away found an article on the author Richard Nolls and his book The Jung Cult. Sure enough, she was right, but the article also supported my nuances. I'll still keep Jung as a hero.
. . .
In fact, the Jung of Memories Dreams and Reflections was written when Jung was 82. Maybe his was less dictatorial then (as my father softened immensely with age). In any case, perhaps the book is my hero rather than necessarily Jung. In the above mentioned three-month journey through Thailand and Cambodia I carried it with me along with two copies of the I Ching and Imperium by the great Polish travel writer Ryszard Kapuscinski. My writing was inspired by Kapuscinski. My inner journey was paralleled by Memories, Dreams and Reflections. My days guided by the I Ching. I attempted to increase indeterminacy and chance (auspicious coincidence) to the utmost. The timing of my trip was acutely right and something intangible was clearly blessing me because I entered a kind of shamanic journey that had a denouement that has never left me. As Jung wrote and as mentioned, "The only events... worth telling are those when the imperishable world irrupts into this transitory one."
On my trip, Memories, Dreams and Reflections