Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung Summary

“I discovered that poverty was no handicap and was far from being the principal reason for suffering. There were far deeper reasons for happiness and unhappiness than one’s allotment of pocket money.” — Carl Jung

Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung Summary
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Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1961) is Carl Jung's autobiography.


  1. “I discovered that poverty was no handicap and was far from being the principal reason for suffering; that the sons of the rich really did not enjoy any advantages over the poor and ill-clad boys. There were far deeper reasons for happiness and unhappiness than one’s allotment of pocket money.” — Carl Jung
  2. Be inconspicuous. Be 2nd rather than 1st. People in 1st are under too much scrutiny.
  3. A therapist can only “fix” their patients if they have “fixed” themself. "Only if the [therapist] knows how to cope with himself and his own problems will he be able to teach the patient to do the same. Only then.” — Carl Jung
  4. Make your work appear effortless. The Ars Poetica maintains that the best poem is the one which conceals the effort of creation.
  5. Even “normal” people have psychological problems.
  6. Even Sigmund Freud had undiagnosed psychological problems, according to Jung.
  7. Mythology is the key to the unconscious. Mythological and religious studies can solve many psychological problems.
  8. Travel and talk to foreigners to understand the conscious and unconscious presuppositions of your country.
  9. Everyone has both good and bad within them. You must be aware of the harm you could do and the good you could do.
  10. “Every [therapist] has patients whom he cannot hope to cure, for whom he can only smooth the path to death.” — Carl Jung
  11. Schizophrenia is difficult to cure.
  12. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator was based on Jung’s book Psychological Types (1921).
  13. Myth and science cannot replace each other.
  14. Read Schopenhauer and Kant.
  15. Read A Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant.
  16. Read Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Empedocles, and Plato/Socrates.
  17. Read Psychic Energy (1928) by Jung
  18. Read Nietzsche. Read Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
  19. Read books on Daoism.

Jung's early life:

He was interested in plants, animals, and stones.

He lost interest in school.

He failed in math and drawing.

He hated gymnastics.

From a young age, he read everything he could.

He worked from 3-7am before school. He was extremely high in industriousness.

He delighted in solitude and nature.

God created Adam and Eve. He also created the snake—to make Adam and Eve sin. God wanted Adam and Eve to sin (or He at least wanted there to be the chance of sinning).

He read Faust and said that it shaped his idea of the devil.

Shunned by peers and teachers. Annoyed by dumb people.

Jung aimed to be #2 not #1 in school because #1 is conspicuous and #2 is inconspicuous.

He liked Socrates and Plato.

Jung says Schopenhauer is the best philosopher.

“I discovered that poverty was no handicap and was far from being the principal reason for suffering; that the sons of the rich really did not enjoy any advantages over the poor and ill-clad boys. There were far deeper reasons for happiness and unhappiness than one’s allotment of pocket money.” — Carl Jung

The Ars Poetica maintains that the best poem is the one which conceals the effort of creation.

He learned not to talk about certain subjects that others didn’t know so that they wouldn’t call him a braggart.

I was drawn principally to zoology, paleontology, and geology; in the humanities to Greco-Roman, Egyptian, and prehistoric archaeology.

He also liked Immanuel Kant's philosophy.

Jung’s father was a humanities PhD.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra was Nitezsche’s “Faust.”

Jung didn’t know what career he wanted to do. He eventually landed on psychiatry.

There is an unconscious secret story that can be the root cause of a mental illness. Once the therapist figures it out, they can begin treatment. In most cases, conscious stories are not enough. These can help:

  • Association tests.
  • Dream analysis.
  • Long and patient exposure to the individual.

One of Jung’s patients poisoned her best friend because she wanted to marry her husband.

One who murders has already destroyed their own soul.

Clinical diagnoses are important because they direct the therapist’s treatment plan. But they do not help the patient. (Note: I have read that a diagnosis can help a patient feel less alone/different. If their problem has a community, a name, and a treatment plan they may feel better.)

“Every [therapist] has patients whom he cannot hope to cure, for whom he can only smooth the path to death.” — Carl Jung

  • Schizophrenia is difficult to cure.

When Freud visited me in Zürich in 1909, I demonstrated the case of Babette to him. Afterwards he said to me, “You know, Jung, what you have found out about this patient is certainly interesting. But how in the world were you able to bear spending hours and days with this phenomenally ugly female?” I must have given him a rather dashed look, for this idea had never occurred to me. In a way I regarded the woman as a pleasant old creature because she had such lovely delusions and said such interesting things. And after all, even in her insanity, the human being emerged from a cloud of grotesque nonsense. Therapeutically, nothing was accomplished with Babette; she had been sick for too long. But I have seen other cases in which this kind of attentive entering into the personality of the patient produced a lasting therapeutic effect.

So much is said in the literature about the resistance of the patient that it would almost seem as if the doctor were trying to put something over on him, whereas the cure ought to grow naturally out of the patient himself. Psychotherapy and analysis are as varied as are human individuals. I treat every patient as individually as possible, because the solution of the problem is always an individual one. Universal rules can be postulated only with a grain of salt. A psychological truth is valid only if it can be reversed. A solution which would be out of the question for me may be just the right one for someone else.

“The psychotherapist, however, must understand not only the patient; it is equally important that he should understand himself. For that reason the sine qua non is the analysis of the analyst, what is called the training analysis. The patient’s treatment begins with the doctor, so to speak. Only if the doctor knows how to cope with himself and his own problems will he be able to teach the patient to do the same. Only then.” — Carl Jung

  • This was my biggest takeaway from psychologist Carl Rogers. Rogers’ work can largely be replaced by this book.

In the great crises of life, in the supreme moments when to be or not to be is the question, little tricks of suggestion do not help. Then the doctor’s whole being is challenged.

The therapist must at all times keep watch over himself, over the way he is reacting to his patient. For we do not react only with our consciousness. Also we must always be asking ourselves: How is our unconscious experiencing this situation? We must therefore observe our dreams, pay the closest attention and study ourselves just as carefully as we do the patient. Otherwise the entire treatment may go off the rails.

“Every therapist ought to have a control by some third person, so that he remains open to another point of view. Even the Pope has a confessor. I always advise analysts: “Have a father confessor, or a mother confessor!” Women are particularly gifted for playing such a part. They often have excellent intuition and a trenchant critical insight, and can see what men have up their sleeves, at times see also into men’s anima intrigues. They see aspects that the man does not see. That is why no woman has ever been convinced that her husband is a superman!”

“It is understandable that a person should undergo analysis if he has a neurosis; but if he feels he is normal, he is under no compulsion to do so. Yet I can assure you, I have had some astonishing experiences with so-called “normality.” Once I encountered an entirely “normal” pupil. He was a doctor, and came to me with the best recommendations from an old colleague. He had been his assistant and had later taken over his practice. Now he had a normal practice, normal success, a normal wife, normal children, lived in a normal little house in a normal little town, had a normal income and probably a normal diet. He wanted to be an analyst. I said to him, “Do you know what that means? It means that you must first learn to know yourself. You yourself are the instrument. If you are not right, how can the patient be made right? If you are not convinced, how can you convince him? You yourself must be the real stuff. If you are not, God help you! Then you will lead patients astray. Therefore you must first accept an analysis of yourself”

  • Even “normal” people have psychological problems.

“As early as 1900 I had read Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams. I had laid the book aside, at the time, because I did not yet grasp it. At the age of twenty-five I lacked the experience to appreciate Freud’s theories. Such experience did not come until later. In 1903 I once more took up The Interpretation of Dreams and discovered how it all linked up with my own ideas. What chiefly interested me was the application to dreams of the concept of the repression mechanism, which was derived from the psychology of the neuroses.”

Mythological and religious studies can solve many psychological problems. It gives the archetypes and unconscious a way to manifest.

You need to be able to interpret symbolic dreams or meanings in life.

Some of Jung’s patients became his students and furthered his ideas.

Freud thought that all neurosis stem from sexual trauma or repression. Jung thought that there were more causes.

When Jung and Freud first met they talked for 13 hours straight. Freud was the most impressive mind Jung had met.

Jung said that Freud’s bitterness surprised him.

Jung said that mental issues used to be explained by religion and Freud simply replaced “religion” with “sexuality.”

Freud told Jung that he had never read Nietzsche.

The dispute between Freud and Adler was more Freud vs Nietzsche.

  • Freud thought that all people were driven by sex.
  • Adler thought all people were driven by power.

Freud’s “sexual drive theory” was like a religion and he wanted Jung to be the prophet.

Freud interpreted Jung’s interest in corpses as Jung wanting Freud to die. Jung said he was perplexed by his interpretation. This is when Freud started fainting around Jung.

Freud had a following and he wanted Jung to be his successor. But Jung didn’t want to be.

Freud analyzed Jung’s dreams. Freud couldn’t analyze Jung’s dreams properly. He was swayed by his own ideology.

Jung said that Freud had a diagnosable neurosis. Freud had said that everyone has a neurosis to an extent.

Jung published a book on sexual libido as a symbol rather than a literal interpretation. Jung was then seen as a mystic, he lost all of his friends, including Freud.

Mythology is the key to the unconscious.

Jung had a 3x recurring dream of blood in the streets. Later WWI happened.

The snake is a frequent counterpart of the hero. The presence of a snake can indicate a hero myth.

Philemon and other figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life. Philemon represented a force which was not myself. In my fantasies I held conversations with him, and he said things which I had not consciously thought. For I observed clearly that it was he who spoke, not I. He said I treated thoughts as if I generated them myself, but in his view thoughts were like animals in the forest, or people in a room, or birds in the air, and added, “If you should see people in a room, you would not think that you had made those people, or that you were responsible for them.” It was he who taught me psychic objectivity, the reality of the psyche. Through him the distinction was clarified between myself and the object of my thought. He confronted me in an objective manner, and I understood that there is something in me which can say things that I do not know and do not intend, things which may even be directed against me.

Psychologically, Philemon represented superior insight. He was a mysterious figure to me. At times he seemed to me quite real, as if he were a living personality. I went walking up and down the garden with him, and to me he was what the Indians call a guru.

Nietzsche was too in his thoughts and theories rather than based in reality.

“Light on the nature of alchemy began to come to me only after I had read the text of the Golden Flower, that specimen of Chinese alchemy which Richard Wilhelm sent me in 1928. I was stirred by the desire to become more closely acquainted with the alchemical texts. I commissioned a Munich bookseller to notify me of any alchemical books that might fall into his hands. Soon afterwards I received the first of them, the Artis Auriferae Volumina Duo (1593), a comprehensive collection of Latin treatises among which are a number of the “classics” of alchemy.”

“Without history, there can be no psychology.”

Jung’s one goal in life was to understand personality.

Symbols of Transformation was the book that ended Jung and Freud’s friendship.

Psychological Types (1921) is Jung’s book that MBTI was based on.

Then Jung studied Daoism.

Jung thought that there was psychic energy. Like energy in the physical sciences—electricity, light, heat, etc. It can be spent on libido, power, aggression, or hunger. The level of energy matters more than what it is used for.

“I see man’s drives, for example, as various manifestations of energetic processes and thus as forces analogous to heat, light, etc. Just as it would not occur to the modern physicist to derive all forces from, shall we say, heat alone, so the psychologist should beware of lumping all instincts under the concept of sexuality. This was Freud’s initial error which he later corrected by his assumption of “ego-instincts.” Still later he brought in the superego, and conferred virtual supremacy upon it.”

Jung talked about Christ and Alchemy in Aion book.

Job is a prefiguration of Christ. The link between them is suffering.

  • Jung talks about this in Aion.

“The inner root of this book is to be found in Aion. There I had dealt with the psychology of Christianity, and Job is a kind of prefiguration of Christ. The link between them is the idea of suffering. Christ is the suffering servant of God, and so was Job. In the case of Christ the sins of the world are the cause of suffering, and the suffering of the Christian is the general answer. This leads inescapably to the question: Who is responsible for these sins? In the final analysis it is God who created the world and its sins, and who therefore became Christ in order to suffer the fate of humanity.”

It often seems as if there were an impersonal karma within a family, which is passed on from parents to children. It has always seemed to me that I had to answer questions which fate had posed to my forefathers, and which had not yet been answered, or as if I had to complete, or perhaps continue, things which previous ages had left unfinished. It is difficult to determine whether these questions are more of a personal or more of a general (collective) nature. It seems to me that the latter is the case. A collective problem, if not recognised as such, always appears as a personal problem, and in individual cases may give the impression that something is out of order in the realm of the personal psyche. The personal sphere is indeed disturbed, but such disturbances need not be primary; they may well be secondary, the consequence of an insupportable change in the social atmosphere. The cause of disturbance is, therefore, not to be sought in the personal surroundings, but rather in the collective situation. Psychotherapy has hitherto taken this matter far too little into account.

“But it is precisely the loss of connection with the past, our uprootedness, which has given rise to the “discontents” of civilisation and to such a flurry and haste that we live more in the future and its chimerical promises of a golden age than in the present, with which our whole evolutionary background has not yet caught up. We rush impetuously into novelty, driven by a mounting sense of insufficiency, dissatisfaction, and restlessness. We no longer live on what we have, but on promises, no longer in the light of the present day, but in the darkness of the future, which, we expect, will at last bring the proper sunrise. We refuse to recognise that everything better is purchased at the price of something worse; that, for example, the hope of greater freedom is cancelled out by increased enslavement to the state, not to speak of the terrible perils to which the most brilliant discoveries of science expose us. The less we understand of what our fathers and forefathers sought, the less we understand ourselves, and thus we help with all our might to rob the individual of his roots and his guiding instincts, so that he becomes a particle in the mass, ruled only by what Nietzsche called the spirit of gravity.”

Reforms by advances, that is, by new methods or gadgets, are of course impressive at first, but in the long run they are dubious and in any case dearly paid for. They by no means increase the contentment or happiness of people on the whole. Mostly, they are deceptive sweetenings of existence, like speedier communications which unpleasantly accelerate the tempo of life and leave us with less time than ever before. Omnis festinatio ex parte diaboli est — all haste is of the devil, as the old masters used to say.

Reforms by retrogressions, on the other hand, are as a rule less expensive and in addition more lasting, for they return to the simpler, tried and tested ways of the past and make the sparsest use of newspapers, radio, television, and all supposedly time-saving innovations.

Jung went to Africa. He went to Africa because it is untouched by civilization. He says we need to travel and talk to foreigners to understand the conscious and unconscious presuppositions of our country.

Jung went to India.

Everyone has both good and bad in them. They must be aware of the harm they could do and the good they can do.

Myth and science cannot replace each other.

There is no better means of intensifying the treasured feeling of individuality than the possession of a secret which the individual is pledged to guard. The very beginnings of societal structures reveal the craving for secret organisations. When no valid secrets really exist, mysteries are invented or contrived to which privileged initiates are admitted. Such was the case with the Rosicrucians and many other societies. Among these pseudo-secrets there are — ironically — real secrets of which the initiates are entirely unaware — as, for example, in those societies which borrowed their “secret” primarily from the alchemical tradition.

Ian Greer © . All rights reserved.