Jung’s dream of himself and his father in the encounter with the “highest presence”. From C.G Jung & A. Jaffé, ‘Memories dreams, reflections‘ P. 244- 247.
Picture: Diwan-i-Khaas, or the Hall of Private Audience is the most distinctive of the administrative buildings built at Fatehpur Sikri.
“The problem of Job in all its ramifications had likewise been
foreshadowed in a dream. It started with my paying a visit to my
long-deceased father. He was living in the country-l did not know
where. I saw a house in the style of the eighteenth century, very
roomy, with several rather large outbuildings. It had originally been, I
learned, an inn at a spa, and it seemed that many great
personages, famous people and princes, had stopped there.
Furthermore, several had died and their sarcophagi were in a crypt
belonging to the house. My father guarded these as custodian.
He was, as I soon discovered, not only the custodian but also a
distinguished scholar in his own right which he had never been in
his lifetime. I met him in his study, and, oddly enough, Dr. Y-who
was about my age and his son, both psychiatrists, were also
present. I do not know whether I had asked a question or whether
my father wanted to explain something of his own accord, but in any
case he fetched a big Bible down from a shelf, a heavy folio volume
like the Merian Bible in my library. The Bible my father held was
bound in shiny fishskin. He opened it at the Old Testament I
guessed that he turned to the Pentateuch and began interpreting a
certain passage. He did this so swiftly and so learnedly that I could
not follow him. I noted only that what he said betrayed a vast amount
of variegated knowledge, the significance of which I dimly
apprehended but could not properly judge or grasp. I saw that Dr. Y
understood nothing at all, and his son began to laugh. They thought
that my father was going off the deep end and what he said was
simply senile prattle. But it was quite clear to me that it was not due
to morbid excitement, and that there was nothing silly about what he
was saying. On the contrary, his argument was so intelligent and so
learned that we in our stupidity simply could not follow it. It dealt with
something extremely important which fascinated him. That was why
he was speaking with such intensity; his mind was flooded with
profound ideas. I was annoyed and thought it was a pity that he had
to talk in the presence of three such idiots as we.
The two psychiatrists represented a limited medical point of view
which, of course, also infects me as a physician. They represent my
shadow first and second editions of the shadow, father and son.
Then the scene changed. My father and I were in front of the house,
facing a kind of shed where, apparently, wood was stacked. We
heard loud thumps, as if large chunks of wood were being thrown
down or tossed about. I had the impression that at least two
workmen must be busy there, but my father indicated to me that the
place was haunted. Some sort of poltergeists were making the
We then entered the house, and I saw that it had very thick walls.
We climbed a narrow staircase to the second floor. There a strange
sight presented itself: a large hall which was the exact replica of the
divan-i-kaas (council hall) of Sultan Akbar at Fatehpur Sikri. It was a
high, circular room with a gallery running along the wall, from which
four bridges led to a basin- shaped center. The basin rested upon a
huge column and formed the sultan’s round seat. From this elevated
place he spoke to his councilors and philosophers, who sat along
the walls in the gallery. The whole was a gigantic mandala. It corresponded precisely to the real divan-i-kaas.
In the dream I suddenly saw that from the center a steep flight of
stairs ascended to a spot high up on the wall which no longer
corresponded to reality. At the top of the stairs was a small door,
and my father said, “Now I will lead you into the highest presence.”
Then he knelt down and touched his forehead to the floor. I imitated
him, likewise kneeling, with great emotion. For some reason I could
not bring my forehead quite down to the floor there was perhaps a
millimeter to spare. But at least I had made the gesture with him.
Suddenly I knew perhaps my father had told me that that upper door
led to a solitary chamber where lived Uriah, King David’s general,
whom David had shamefully betrayed for the sake of his wife
Bathsheba, by commanding his soldiers to abandon Uriah in the
face of the enemy.
I must make a few explanatory remarks concerning this dream. The
initial scene describes how the unconscious task which I had left to
my “father,” that is, to the unconscious, was working out. He was
obviously engrossed in the Bible-Genesis?-and eager to
communicate his insights. The fishskin marks the Bible as an
unconscious content, for fishes are mute and unconscious. My poor
father does not succeed in communicating either, for the audience
is in part incapable of understanding, in part maliciously stupid.
After this defeat we cross the street to the “other side,” where
poltergeists are at work. Poltergeist phenomena usually take place
in the vicinity of young people before puberty; that is to say, lam still
immature and too unconscious. The Indian ambience illustrates the
“other side.” When I was in India, the mandala structure of the
divan-i-kaas had in actual fact powerfully impressed me as the
representation of a content related to a center. The center is the
seat of Akbar the Great, who rules over a subcontinent, who is a
“lord of this world,” like David. But even higher than David stands
his guiltless victim, his loyal general Uriah, whom he abandoned to
the enemy. Uriah is a prefiguration of Christ, the god-man who was
abandoned by God. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken
me?” On top of that, David had “taken unto himself Uriah’s wife.
Only later did I understand what this allusion to Uriah signified: not
only was I forced to speak publicly, and very much to my detriment,
about the ambivalence of the God-image in the Old Testament; but
also, my wife would be taken from me by death.
These were the things that awaited me, hidden in the unconscious. I
had to submit to this fate, and ought really to have touched my
forehead to the floor, so that my submission would be complete. But
something prevented me from doing so entirely, and kept me just a
millimeter away. Something in me was saying, “All very well, but not
entirely.” Something in me was defiant and determined not to be a
dumb fish: and if there were not something of the sort in free men,
no Book of Job would have been written several hundred years
before the birth of Christ. Man always has some mental reservation,
even in the face of divine decrees. Otherwise, where would be his
freedom? And what would be the use of that freedom if it could not
threaten Him who threatens it?
Uriah, then, lives in a higher place than Akbar. He is even, as the
dream said, the “highest presence,” an expression which properly
is used only of God, unless we are dealing in Byzantinisms. I cannot
help thinking here of the Buddha and his relationship to the gods.
For the devout Asiatic, the Tathagata is the All-Highest, the
Absolute. For that reason Hinayana Buddhism has been suspected
of atheism very wrongly so. By virtue of the power of the gods man
is enabled to gain an insight into his Creator. He has even been
given the power to annihilate Creation in its essential aspect, that
is, man’s consciousness of the world. Today he can extinguish all
higher life on earth by radioactivity. The idea of world annihilation is
already suggested by the Buddha: by means of enlightenment the
Nidana chain-the chain of causality which leads inevitably to old
age, sickness, and death-can be broken, so that the illusion of
Being comes to an end. Schopenhauer’s negation of the Will points
prophetically to a problem of the future that has already come
threatingly close. The dream discloses a thought and a premonition
that have long been present in humanity: the idea of the creature
that surpasses its creator by a small but decisive factor. “