Carl Jung: the Astrologer’s wise old man at the Bollingen Tower
Here’s a photo of Carl Jung’s “Bollingen Tower” that I saw the last time I was in Zurich—such a magical place! I love that he built this stone and timber tower as his sacred retreat. There’s a wall here where he painted a vibrant mural of the outstretched wings of his spiritual mentor, ‘Philemon’. You can see this colorful painting in his journal: “The Red Book” –and he painted it without benefit of electric lights—! The mural within the round tower is the heart of this space, and it has a rustic, primitive and private feeling. He would take himself here to ponder, write, and cook meals over an open fire—apparently he was quite a good cook who loved cooking in a large pot—and if you were honored to be a guest at supper, he would suggest “quietness” while eating so that the food could be truly savored.
I can imagine him here, with his pipe, his paints and his….aloneness. He “attended to his inner life” and in this way he was an archetypal “senex”—the wise Saturnian elder man. Jung had a Leo Sun sign, with a Taurus Moon conjunct Pluto, and Aquarius rising.
He was also a bit of a trickster (like Hermes), and a shaman and scholar as well as a spiritual man and healer. His psychology came out of his life; he broke some rules, he kept to some. As John Perry, a friend of his noted: “There was always a little something magical about the way Jung’s mind worked. He said that he felt himself to be more shaman than psychiatrist.”
Sometimes I fear that most modern psychology, and even astrology, serves the ego’s fantasy of control, while Jungian psychology affirms “the summons to surrender to the gods”—to that which wishes to live through us…and calls us to listen to the inner archetypal voices which astrologers call planets.
Jung would counsel that we become a “disciple” to that which is calling us, and surrender to our personal discipline. A positive view of “discipline” don’t you think? Being a disciple to that which you really love? Still it’s never easy for us, nor was it for him.
His dearest friend, Toni Wolf, highly disapproved of his exploration of alchemy and astrology, but he pursued it anyway and that issue finally ended their relationship of many years. Did you know that she was his lover, companion, and ‘guide’ when he was going through his most difficult years during his Uranus opposition, around the age of forty? And that Jung’s wife, Emma, actually accepted Toni as a member of the family…so Toni would be present at Sunday meals…much more accepted in European culture at that time than it would be now! Anyway….
Did you know that Jung studied and practiced astrology for forty years before he published his work on synchronicity in 1950? He used the word “synchronicity” to explain how astrology worked, meaning that there can be a relationship between two things that don’t have a causal relationship—that is, that one event doesn’t scientifically cause the other to happen—i.e. pure cause and effect. But what is significant and necessary is that there must be an emotional meaningfulness to that moment in time. And of course, what could be more meaningful than our birth! Jung once said: “We are born at a moment in time, and like the grapes in a vineyard, we take on the qualities of the time and place from which we came.”
Jung used the birth charts of his clients to “find clues to the core of psychological truth…” (this was written in a letter he wrote to Freud in 1911). The fact that he respected and used astrology means a lot to those of us who combine psychology and astrology—which is what archetypal astrologers do.
But even if Jung didn’t have this connection, I would still be in awe of him as the archetype of the “Wise Old Man.” He honored the Mystery that we live within—that sea the Soul swims within—without getting dogmatic about it. Isn’t that the heart of wisdom; to honor the Mystery without literalizing it and without trying to make it fit precisely into concrete scientific or historical fact? Joseph Campbell later called this kind of truth a “myth” and he understood myths as revealing a very deep level of truth.
Today I feel more like a mentor in writing all this. But still the story continues here…and I haven’t heard a word yet from Peter, even though Sophie and I will be in Zurich by noon today. I’m thinking of staying in a B & B in old Zurich if we can find a room. Perhaps I’ve honored my Saturn conjunct the Libra Sun today by writing about Jung as the astrologer’s “senex” while listening to Bach, on my Ipod. It has been pouring rain all day, and Sophie has been reading and sleeping this whole train trip—but she did tell me one thing—she has a surprise for me tonight when we get settled in our rooms….?