Book Review: Jung – The Wisdom of the Dream

by Stephen Segaller & Merill Berger, Waidenfeld & Nicolson, London. In association with Channel Four Television Co. Ltd. and Border Television pic (1989) 200 pp Stg£12.95

The people interviewed and recorded in this book all describe encounters with Jung which left them transformed – “being cracked over the head by Excalibur”.

I write this review as some one new to the field and a first reading left me feeling as if the scales had fallen from my eyes. As such, I strongly recommend the book as an introduction to Jung and anyone interested in dreams but I believe that for those not so new it will also prove a stimulating revision and extension.

The Wisdom of the Dream was written to accompany the first international television documentary on Jung. It is an exposition of the life and work of Jung written by the makers of the film. Their interviews with Jungian analysts and followers form part of the text and are quoted from throughout. Its style therefore is “photogenic” and accessible. Jung and his followers arc encapsulated in “shots”, their appearance and clothes described while they cook wholesome meals or pose in picturesque surroundings. This can sometimes be offputting – Aniela Jaffe (Jung’s collaborator on the autobiography) is interviewed in an apartment “filled with the flowers of a young woman continually visited by suitors”.

Nevertheless the approach is sound in that “Jung’s psychology was the result of the way that he lived his own life, and his life was the living-out of his psychology”.

It is clearly important to all those that appear in the book that it is more than what goes on inside the head that is significant. For example, Dieter Baumann, Jung’s grandson and a practising analyst needed to be filmed outdoors on the banks of the Rhine and then proceeded to talk about the meaning of water in Jung’s life.

As in Jung’s autobiography, so in this book, the development of Jung’s thinking is paralleled by his own lifestory and a fascinating balance is achieved. At the time, what makes the book such an excellent introduction is the fact that Jung is surrounded by fellow travellers so that the camera moves constantly as it were from focus on Jung to additional glossary by others. In many cases these additions are by people who knew Jung personally. As such, this makes the book a valuable historical record.

However, the book also includes interviews with and lengthy quotations from the current “third generation” of Jungian analysts and so moves on into, for example, film, science fiction, architecture, economics, Christian theology. All this left my appetite whetted which an excellent, annotated Selected Further Reading list should be able to satisfy.

It must be a good book which sends you rushing off to the library with a booklist.

The title of the book is also the title of the chapter which concentrates on dreams. “Among the many puzzles of medical psychology there is one problem child, the dream”. (Collected Works) However, this is not a book about dreams; it’s about Jung. “Jung’s view that the unconscious is active and independent automatically suggests that the expression of the unconscious, in the form of a dream, is something worth considering in its own right”. Consequently, reference is made throughout the book to dreams and their meaning both in quotations from Jung himself and from those of his followers, e.g. Dr. Harry Wilmer’s work with the dreams of Vietnam veterans; James Hillman’s “psychic ecology” with what bugs do in dreams.

“Humankind has gone to the immense psychological trouble of preserving myths and legends, telling stories and dreaming involuntarily the history of the human psyche – and in our state of ultimate knowledge and enlightenment, we consistently disregard it all”.

The American analyst Dr. Edward quotes from one of Jung’s last letters: “I have failed in my foremost task, to open people’s eyes to the fact that man has a soul, that there is a buried treasure in the field”. Here is one person at least for whom The Wisdom of the Dream has been a stepping stone and for whom, as a result, Jung hasn’t failed; whose eyes have started to open and who is eager to spread the word.

Margaret Fawcett