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10 November 2011

Miguel Serrano: In Nehru's India (Pt. 2)

Cecilia Valdés Urrutia
(Translated by Alex Kurtagic)

Editor's Note: The following is an interview with Miguel Serrano, originally published in El Mercurio, in Santiago, Chile on 18 October 1998. The interview appeared as one piece, but we have broken it into two parts. What follows is part two. Part one was published yesterday.

C. G. Jung and Hermann Hesse

In India, you received a letter from Professor Carl Gustav Jung, who wrote a preface for one of your books, The Visits from the Queen of Sheba.

Yes. And in a recent biography about Jung that I found, by German professor Gerhard Wehr, the latter dedicates two chapters to refer to Jung’s relationship with me. He tells that Jung barely received visits from members of his family or his disciples, but that he did receive mine. And that he talked with me about things that he had not talked about with anyone else. It’s true. Because with him I touched a key point.

The Archetypes?

Yes. The Visit of the Queen the Sheba, the archetype of love, the archetype of the woman who had also visited him, the same as me. An impersonal relationship was established between us. And it was so certain, that Doctor Jacobi would ask me about what Jung thought about the Age of Aquarius . . . And when I passed this book along to Jung (The Visits of the Queen of Sheba), he said: you have touched the point. It was then that he revealed something to me with very great delicacy. He took out a book called The Transformations of the Libido [Psychology of the Unconscious: a study of the transformations and symbolisms of the libido, a contribution to the history of the evolution of thought] and showed me a series of paintings and drawings. He told me that he had done it with a woman he had known. And when I asked him about her he told me: she died many years ago and I am now very old . . . Later I knew it was Toni Woolff, which it seems was a great love that nearly destroyed his marriage. Years later, when I lived in the house that had been Hermann Hesse’s, I received a letter by a man who told me that the person to which I have referred is his wife’s grandmother, and that he was sending me something that that grandmother hand written. Its title was The Friend in the Unconscious.

And what happens with the letter that you received earlier, from Jung, about your work The Visits of the Queen of Sheba?

When I received it I was having lunch in Indian with Arnold Toynbee (a great British historian), who was arriving from Zurich having celebrated Jung’s birthday. Toynbee had confessed to me that it had been Jung’s conception of the archetype that led him to conceive his theory about the sudden start of civilisation. I showed him Jung’s letter and I told him about my intention to request it from Jung as a preface for my book. Toynbee said to me: how can you even think of doing that? That was enough for me to ask it from Jung. He replied to me in less than a week, telling me he felt honoured to give me that letter as a preface.

It was, I believe, the only preface by Jung to any work of literature.

Yes . . . And there is no other Chilean author who has been prefaced by Jung.

Jung wrote in there that it was dreams within dreams . . . and added about your book that ‘the unconscious or what we designate by this name, presents the author in his psychological aspect’.

In its aesthetic aspect, more than anything. Because for Jung, the unconscious was the root and basis for all differentiated phenomena: art, philosophy, music. And music he defined as ‘the archetypes of movement’. That preface by Jung is marvellous. He also told me in the letter that he had reached the point where what he had to do was to keep his treasure, for he could accomplish no more, because that could serve to illuminate the darkness of the creator.

How did your approach to Jung begin?

I was very interested in his work, in 1947, when I travelled to Antarctica. I took with me his book, The Relationship Between the Self and the Unconscious. There, for the first time, I came to know the idea of Jung’s archetypes. I was greatly impressed when he makes a wonderful interpretation of an esoteric Christianity, like when he says that Jesus was possessed by the spirit of the father . . . Later, in India, I read and read Jung. And there [in India] arrived the actress Jennifer Jones, who was being psychoanalysed by a Jungian doctor in Switzerland. I decided to go to Switzerland . . . Thanks to her I went to his house . . .

Jung, in the end, sent me a letter that is a veritable ‘ideological testament’. Where he refers to what he believed in, to his convictions, to his flying saucers, which for him were round as a symbol of totality . . . I donated it to Jung’s Library in Zurich.

And how was C. G. Jung’s personality?

He had an enormous sense of humour. It was he who said to me, in his house in Küsnacht: if you meet the queen of Sheba, don’t make the mistake of marrying her, because you will both destroy yourselves. The queen of Sheba is for love, not for marriage. She must be taken the way a glass of Cognac is taken in a single-gulp glass, because if it is taken in a beer glass it dies. And the solution, he added, is the harem, polygamy, but it turns out it’s too expensive, so we can’t do that now . . . And the queen of Sheba is polygamous. She lights up, enamours, men. She is not Beatrice, is not Margaret, is not Goethe’s ‘eternal feminine that leads to heaven’ . . . Jung was brilliant. And very deep. A poet. Out of the three or four intense encounters that we had (besides the letters) he said, in the end, leaning on a ceremonial Taoist Chinese walking stick: only poets will understand me.

It was such a deep relationship with Jung, that, upon his death, I sent a letter to Hermann Hesse and I said: ‘why have you hosted me with such deference, I who am nobody?’ At that point they asked Hesse for a contribution for a special issue of a Zurich daily dedicated to Jung. He sent my letter, saying: ‘I request that you publish this letter that has reached me by this Chilean writer’. And so it was.

Was Hermann Hesse very good friends with Jung?

Hermann Hesse changed his life because of Jung. Once he came to know Jung’s psychology of the depths, the relationship of the archetypes, and was psychoanalysed by Jung, he changed his literature completely and wrote Demian, which is all into Jungian psychology, of the mother, of the self. His came to be a deep, magic literature.

And which are your favourite books by Hesse?

Narcissus and Goldmund, Demian, Siddharta, and The Glass Bead Game, of course . . .

Was the assimilation of Eastern thought in Hesse also a great point of encounter with you?

Yes. But I knew it before going to India. I arrived at his house in Montagnola, in 1953, as a pilgrim, with a rucksack on my back and a book in my hand . . . Searching for his house. He never received anyone and on his door there was a sign that read: ‘When a man has grown old and wants to be alone, walk past this house wayfarer as if there was no one here and he had died, carry on with your journey’ (signed with a Chinese name, but it was him). His employee, who had by chance travelled with me in the bus, helped me to have him receive me.

Miguel Serrano’s encounters and travels do not end there. In India he was also very close to the Dalai Lama, being the only foreigner who received him in the Himalayas, when he fled China’s invasion of Tibet. He spent time with Aldous Huxley and, what is more, Indian princes and pricesses, mythical, esoteric figures, who in this third volume of memoirs he commits to paper with the same fountain pen he used to write The Visits of the Queen of Sheba.

Notes:

    The C. G. Jung Papers Collection, access to which is regulated by the Foundation for the Works of C. G. Jung. (Ed.)

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