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Mittwoch, 17. April 2019

White Man doomed

(English translation of "Der Untergang des Weissen Mannes" which originally appeared in my Book "Begegnungen mit dem Leibhaftigen", Tredition, 2016)

I was a boy of fifteen years then in 1956 when I had my first and only encounter with Carl Gustav Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist. He was over eighty years old and it happened on the shores of the lake of Zürich. 

Original tower left, buildings were added during Jungs lifetime
There Jung had built with his own hands the well-known tower where he spent every summer without phone or electricity. My grandparents being his close friends he had let them have a stretch of his land to build a summer house too. When my grandparents died it was our privilege to spend holidays there.  

Jung preparing firewood in Bollingen
(from a youtube video)
Passing by with the rowing boat one could often see Jung at the waterfront, splitting wood with the axe or playing with pebbles near the water, always wearing his tattered straw hat and a green gardeners apron.

One afternoon the big, slightly bent man with his straw hat appeared near our boat house and said that it was time for a neighbourly visit. We took him inside and served some tea. He was in good mood and very affable. When asked how he was doing he answered – looking ironically over his small glasses - that it was very interesting to observe the phenomena of senility once upon oneself. 

Jung looking over his glasses
He then lit a pipe and told us some stories, speaking mostly to the young generation, to my brother and me. First, he mentioned experiments with hypnosis done in Paris: A married lady was hypnotized back in time and, when asked about her husband, she only blushed and said coyly that she did not know such a person.

Then he told us about his expedition to the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico after the first world war. Jung had treated a family member of John D. Rockefeller, who out of gratitude financed him some ethnological expeditions to Africa and the Americas. Jung told us about his encounter with a Pueblo chief whose name was “mountain lake”. This chief told him, that the white man was doomed. When asked why the chief took both hands before his eyes and – Jung imitating the gesture – moved the outstretched index fingers convergingly towards one point before him, saying because the white man looks at only one point, excluding all other aspects.

Taos, New Mexico, where Jung encountered "Mountain Lake"
Jung has written about this same encounter several times: E.g. the chief having said that the white man was mad, because the only thought with his head and not with the heart as one should. But Jung’s writings never mentioned this pueblo chiefs prediction of white man’s doom. Probably at the time this was too farfetched to be taken seriously, seeming just an example of primitive man’s thinking unconnected with reality.

1972 the Club of Rome in his report “Limits to growth” startled the world with conclusions never thought of before. In Europe and elsewhere trying to apply these to politics proved unsuccessful in the framework of the established political parties. Thinking individuals therefore began to found small green movements and parties everywhere. We did this also in Switzerland and in the eighties I became a green member of the Swiss parliament. 

Christoph Blocher (R) speaking to a member of government (ca. 1990)
Our main adversary in environmental questions was the Swiss Peoples Party, whose dominant figure was the successful industrialist and self-made billionaire Christoph Blocher, a really enthralling public speaker, and so to say a prototype of the white man. We both once allied in sinking a useless subsidy and therefore had some private discussions. Once I asked him what in his view was the reason for his incredible entrepreneurial and political success. He took both hands before his eyes and moved the outstretched index fingers convergingly towards one point before him, saying because I am able to concentrate on only one point, excluding all other aspects. I remember that I had to swallow empty two or three times not saying anything further…

This was some thirty years ago. And today the prediction of the Pueblo chief is not any more an example of primitive thinking unconnected with reality. Because if the white man will be doomed its exactly because he can look and concentrate at just one point, excluding all other aspects. His focus of interest is growth - growth of greatness, growth of population, growth of production and economy. And he excludes everything else, may it be bees, bombs, the shrinking fertile soils, the depletion of species and oceans and especially the relentlessly warming atmosphere, which will burn us all to death unless we take most drastic actions ourselves now…

And why did Carl Gustav Jung tell us young people about this encounter with the Pueblo chief which he could not have understood and never had put into writing? Of course Jung was a born entertainer and storyteller, but he also had an irrationally visionary side to him. Probably he felt that it was important to transmit this warning to a younger generation, even if its significance was not clear in 1956. And now I have transmitted it again.

In the meantime I have tried to find out what the chiefs sayings might mean today and I came up with the following points: 

6 Kommentare:

  1. Thank you! When thinking of these metaphors for directing the will, I find the two modes of seeing that the eye engages in illustrative. We have focused, central vision which looks at one spot, but we also have peripheral vision which takes in the whole picture. Systems theory, ecology and economics are accessible ways to intellectually encounter the holistic view in these post-modern times, or you can just grow a garden and observe.

    1. My father used to say to "see" one should not "look" (for something)

  2. Thx for the story which I shared with other people.
    But what sort of music did you use to listen to, in 1956, on the Bollingen Beach sunny afternoon?

    1. I then still had the idea of becoming a musician and practised my cello for hours on end on the shore of the lake under the trees: Etudes of Duport and Cossmann and Bachs Solo suites. I do not remember a radio or gramophone there.

      There is also a slightly more extensive German version of this text: https://lukasfierz.blogspot.com/2019/04/blochers-sicht.html

  3. Just the click-clack
    from the lumberjack
    beating the tact
    smelling the sweat,
    imagining the
    White man's death,
    While still alive,
    and communicative,
    C.G. Jung.


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