Reflections On the Life and Dreams of C.G. Jung: by Aniela Jaffé from conversations with Jung

In this review, I am departing from the approach that has guided previous reviews on our website. I am not addressing a “classic” Jungian text. Instead, I am addressing a book that has to do with the origins of a classic, namely Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1963). Specifically, this review is about the recent publication of Aniela Jaffé’s Reflections…, which includes extracts from the protocols she used to compose the book that is often taken to be Jung’s autobiography.

The selection here, 60 brief chapters worked up from extensive conversations with Jung on a variety of topics over a four-year period, are interesting and provocative in and of themselves, as one might expect. Chapters with telling titles such as “On Wholeness and the Limits of Language,” “Snake and Fish,” “Experiences at Yale and Harvard,” “Emptiness and Intuition,” “Small Children and the Pleroma,” “The Dead Shall Live,” “Animals and Fullness,” “God Revealed,” “The Afterlife and Sexuality,” “Incarnation.” Well, you get it. These extracts from Jaffe’s protocols, the raw material used for Memories, Dreams, Reflections (MDR), are must reads: all sixty of them! They take you into what Jung talked about regularly in his daily conversations with Jaffé. His conversational style here was spontaneous and associative, so different from the narrative, chronological style finally adopted in MDR.

The protocols are revelatory. However, what is mind-blowing in this new release is the nearly 200 page historical commentary provided by Elena Fischli, who takes you where no one has gone before, in regard to Jaffé, Jung, Kurt Wolff and the eventual publication of MDR.

WHAT A STORY!! The main characters in the drama are as follows: 1) The Villain: Kurt Wolff. Spoiled, rich kid accustomed to, by his wife’s own admission, “always getting his way.” He was calculating and bullying throughout his interactions with Jaffé, representing his and the American publisher’s interests (Pantheon press) often with no regard for the ongoing working relationship between Jaffe and Jung. Wolff initially had commissioned Jaffé to write a biography of Jung, but by the end of the process, he did whatever he thought was necessary to get the book done his way. 2) The Heroine: Aniela Jaffé. The intelligent, sensitive, insightful writer of the majority of MDR and ultimately Jung’s soror mystica for the project. She remained loyal to Jung throughout, as Jung did to her. 3) The “subject” of this drama: the book now known as the American edition of MDR, and 4) last but not least, the subject of the book: Jung himself, who for the most part was ambivalent about the project from start to finish.

The project was frequently under threat of annihilation by Wolff’s constant meddling, conniving, and manipulation. His unsavory encroachments into the ongoing creative process of Jung and Jaffé often seemed ambitiously cold and self-serving, to such a degree that one truly must ask why Jaffé and Jung put up with him. Given the questionable legal rights Pantheon had over the project, Wolff clearly comes off as a thug who risked the entire project for his vain ends. Too hard on him? Maybe not.

Along the way, Wolff gets, among others, R.F.C Hull, one of the translators of the Collected Works, & Cary Baynes, translator of the I Ching, to join in against Jung and Jaffé on several critical matters. And, yet, somehow, he gets away with these awful antics and interventions that could have resulted in a deeply flawed outcome, had Jaffe and Jung merely caved to all his demands.

As it ended up, Jaffé wrote to Rivkah Kluger Schaf in 1961, the year of Jung’s death, “It looks like I am going to be wiped out of the book entirely and it will be published solely as a book by C. G. Jung.” This was neither Jung’s nor Jaffé’s intent. It was Wolff’s. Yet, by the third version of the manuscript, begun in December 1959, and after an exhausted Jung had backed completely out of his conflicts with Wolff, Jaffé was left to fend for herself. Ultimately, she was ready to be done with this very tortuous process. Fischli tells the reader, in regard to the final product, “her role as author was hardly in evidence at all.”

Even with that said, in the end what ultimately was behind the publication of MDR was in fact and substance the Jung-Jaffé relationship. Jung trusted Jaffe wholeheartedly with the peculiar task of writing a biography for him, for which he contributed autobiographical chapters. And, ultimately, they did win out, with Jaffé performing the creative weave which eventually became the MDR that we all know and love, the book that, while wickedly tampered with by Wolff, is indeed a classic in Jungian studies.

From the beginning, Wolff wanted a first person autobiography…done his way, in a linear narrative, stressing Jung’s personality #1, the outer personality, over personality #2, which connected Jung to his inner world and where he made contact with the archetypal realm. Wolff believed the book should have Jung writing about all the famous people he encountered in his lifetime who would be of particular interest to an “average” American audience. For example, a chapter on Theodore Flournoy was taken out by Wolff because Americans wouldn’t know who he was. He also wanted Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Jaffé’s title for the project) to be stipulated as having been written totally under Jung’s pen, eventually erasing Jaffé’s presence from the project completely, and this after commissioning her to write the biography. Needless to say, Jung and Jaffé had a completely different idea of what they were working on, and were frequently at odds with Wolff.

Wolff consistently talked out of both sides of his mouth. To the degree that he would stipulate Jung to be the author of the autobiography, he could lose the rights to the book to Jung’s German publisher, who had control over anything Jung wrote. As it turns out, the German edition of MDR is indeed different from the American edition. Among other omissions, it included “Seven Sermons to the Dead,” various additional references to the Red Book. a chapter on Jung’s ancestry and family, several letters to Erich Neumann, and sections on Theodore Flournoy and Heinrich Zimmer. (See additionally, Sonu Shamdasani’s early groundbreaking essay, “Memories, Dreams, Omissions”). Furthermore, Wolff acted as if he were the self-appointed, would-be editor of the Jung-Jaffé text and felt free to interfere, even to dominate, the creative process that Jaffe and Jung were immersed in throughout the writing period. It was as if he considered MDR his book to do with what he deemed fit and proper.

Wolff was in effect a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a bully, pushing to get his way until MDR finally appeared under Jung’s authorship, betraying Jaffe and confusing the historical record for the future. Often, he was an outright liar to both Jaffé and Jung, full of machinations that would turn the entire project into the intended, big money maker for Pantheon. On many occasions, he was clearly disrespectful of Jaffé and Jung and the relationship that was central to the creation of MDR. He often showed little or no regard for the material Jaffe and Jung were generating and working on during their four years of in depth conversations, and ignored Jung’s and Jaffé’s own intentions repeatedly made clear to him through their collaboration.

One example of Wolff’s intrusive behavior: Wolff was pushing to do an early publication of a chapter on Freud that he had written for inclusion in MDR. He wanted to see it in Life magazine or the Saturday Evening Post, as a “teaser” for the book. The idea here was that his essay, under Jung’s pen, would be offered to magazines that would reach millions of readers and thus prop up sales for MDR when it eventually came out. Jaffé and Jung stopped that from happening. Nor was that “chapter” included in MDR. But, this was typical behavior coming from Wolff. In fact, over several critical issues, too many to go into here, Wolff went behind Jaffé’s and Jung’s backs making “deals” with other people that skewed J & J’s process and increasingly threatened the emergence of the book.

And, finally, he was a thief. He asked to borrow the protocols to read and after repeated requests from Jaffé to return them, simply refused. It is another story how they finally got back to her, but suffice it to say, we are the ultimate beneficiaries with the current publication of Jaffé’s Reflections…

By Jung’s repeated admission, MDR was always Jaffé’s book. Not Wolff’s. Not even Jung’s! Drawing on years of what Jaffé called the “protocols,” her copious notes and reflections based on hundreds of conversations with Jung, Jaffé was able to take Jung’s stories in and give them back to him as a text that would be successfully integrated with Jung’s own chapters that eventually went into the book. Jung always trusted Jaffé to do the right thing. This is all to say that the backstory to MDR speaks to the incredible relationship between Aniela Jaffé and Carl Jung, and most importantly, to Jaffé’s skills and intelligence present at both the on-going conversations with Jung and throughout their collaborative process. She was, needless to say, a consummate listener.

Jung, who often complained about being so misunderstood by colleagues and public alike, was set at ease by Jaffé, by who she was as a person and a friend, by how she worked, by what she had accomplished, and by her sheer presence when she was with him at work on this project. This collaboration was clearly one of deep and mutual respect for one another. She in fact made the work on the biography/autobiography possible for Jung.

In Reflections…, the lengthy historical essay brings the reader right to the heart of that relationship. Elana Fischli spells out here with incredible care a well-documented and detailed perspective based on extensive correspondence among all the major and minor players involved in the drama of getting this book into circulation. She adds immeasurably to our understanding of what went on behind the scenes leaving us to conclude that without the Jung-Jaffé relationship, there would have been no Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Jung would not, indeed could not, have done this work alone!

From the beginning, Jung himself had all kinds of misgivings about the endeavor to present the “complicated phenomenon” that is C. G. Jung, which is how he referred to himself in the context of the writing of MDR. Jaffé, patient, kind, intelligent, and receptive throughout, was the perfect complement to assuage his ongoing doubts and bad moods. Getting the low-down on how this book finally made it into the public realm would tell you there was plenty of room for breakdowns, retreats, and ultimate defeat. The saga, with a somewhat polite veneer, is rife with conflicts. Reading this text, one could even conclude that it was a miracle that MDR got out at all, save for the coniunctio Jung & Jaffé experienced in the 4 year process of giving it birth.

Jung ended up giving copyright of MDR to Jaffé, with the stipulation that they would split the royalties 50-50. Since it would be published posthumously, this is tantamount to saying his royalties would go to the family estate. Interestingly, Jung wanted to dedicate the book to his children, but Wolff successfully stopped that from happening.

Even with Wolff’s incessant tampering and mischief making, MDR is in fact a singular work in Jungian studies and one in which many return to for ongoing sustenance and guidance along the individuation journey. I know of many individuals, and probably scores of analysts, that would cite MDR as the book that initiated them into Jungian psychology. Analyst Barbara Hannah, an accomplished author and one of the better biographers of Jung, dares to admit that she herself read MDR 60 times!

Behind all this drama and difficulty, one comes to realize that this book was not just any book about Jung’s life and work among the now 20+ biographies of Jung. It served as an initiation into the reader’s own working process with his or her unconscious; this by way of a deep dive into Jung’s relationship to his own unconscious. Jaffe was the one who assured this of happening. I myself have read MDR at least a half dozen times. It is a book one never tires of nor outgrows, poised as it is to accompany us through aging and death.

Before the publication of the Red Book in 2009, MDR was assumed to be a kind of sur-text for both understanding Jung and the roots of Analytical Psychology. Now with Reflections…, and especially Elana Fischli’s book length historical commentary on the Jung-Jaffé-Wolff drama, we see in real time and space what took place in regard to getting this book to the public, a book that in the end, with all that was working against it, will continue to speak movingly to the future generations.

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