How Carl Became Jung
A December storm swept through the village of Kleinhuningen, and the children were kept inside. But the inside was hardly better than the outside with its stone walls and fifteen-foot ceilings. Hail threatened to shatter the window panes and lifted ice-encrusted tree branches against the glass creating a high-pitched scratching noise that sent chills down Carl's spine. They were playing a game of hide and seek and Carl had found a good spot under his grandfather's bed on the third floor of the house. There were many places to get lost in, the pantry, the library with it's cloth shrouded chairs, and the off-limits attic whose floor-boards were rotting away, so many dark nooks and crannies in the large vicarage that it would probably take his cousins all day to find him. He huddled under the bed, trying not to move on the creaking boards, the bed covers were long and went all the way to the floor. He heard their footsteps and heard the girls running up the creaking stairs calling his name Carl, Carl come out; squeals of laughter rang down the hallway as they darted in and out of empty rooms. He knew his grandfather's room would not be the first place they looked as everyone was afraid of the old man.
Their laughter and loud voices began to fade after a while, and Carl realized that they would not find him; he had hidden himself too well. This disappointed him. He could not come out by himself. He had to be found in order to leave his secret place. His cousins rambled up and down the stairs until they grew bored and finally went back down the stairs to the warmer cozier parlors and hearth.
He continued lying there as he grew colder and he allowed the cold to sink into his clothes, his skin, even a little into his heart. The moon made its way through the trees outside the window. It was bright even through the heavy curtains and cast tree shadows along the wall and floor. They took on strange shapes, at times appearing to be a bird flailing in the branches, at other times a human form waving a stick threateningly. These figures blundered about the room as he kept still, and although he was frightened of them, he stared with interest.
He fell into a cold sleep; his knees had become icy little stones, and so sleep delivered him into a dream. This time Carl found himself staring at a lifeline, a giant cable that swung back and forth in front of him. He was perched on the edge of a stony cliff. He heard his mother's voice behind him; she had several and was using her second voice persona, "hurry, grab it before it's too late," she warned. He knew that if he didn't he would some how be swept off the cliff. He stretched himself out over empty space, grabbed the cable and was suddenly dropped into a twilight landscape.
There in front of him was the old house, dry, scorched. He made his way to the cellar door, heaved it open and stepped down inside. He went into the cellar which wound and tipped into darkness, and with each new step he began to feel something clutching at him; his breathing became heavy and slow. The steps were covered with moss, and were crumbly as well, and he had to be careful where to put his foot to avoid the stairs' disintegration. He thought he heard his father's voice above him, beseeching him, watch your step, don't fall, and then the voice subsided in the darkness. When he reached the bottom step, he could tell that many of them had turned to powder and long strands of moss had pulled away from the wall. A moment of terror struck when he became aware that he would have no way out of this dismal place. His fear was quickly overcome, however, by his curiosity as he looked into the darkness, and could see a small light emanating from the other end.
He moved toward it. With each step he took toward this light, the space became brighter and softer. There seemed to be a delicate humming sound not unlike a lullaby or nursery rhyme. There was a scent of licorice and rosemary. He moved closer to the sound and at the same time, the sound moved closer to him until he found himself in a cluttered, light-spilled room with piles of old furniture, paintings, and dishes. There was a small iron bed in the center of this gentle chaos and a pile of blankets on it. He went to the bed and pulled back the covers and when he did a small child, a girl of about two or three, popped up laughing.
"Oh, my god! What are....how?" He choked, then fainted.
When he woke he found the child standing over him babbling words he could not understand immediately.
"Hein....bette.....gloss.." She extended her hand out to him. When he hesitated, she pounced on him and pulled him to his feet.
"Who....are.... you....and how did you get here?" Carl stammered.
"I am myself!" and this time her words reverberated off the dense walls in swatches of red, orange, green, gold and he found himself reaching for the words as they moved along the wall and floor. She spoke of herself but these words passed through Carl like a thunderclap. It was as if another life and time occupied this space, and he was in it, of it, and passing through it all at once. He fainted again. Carl fainted often, and many people began to think he was epileptic. In truth, Carl had eaten nothing all day except a cup of milk. He often went hungry. If anyone had bothered to notice, they would have realized his fainting spells were caused by a lack of food.
He felt himself spinning upward out of the cellar across the twilight landscape. When he woke up, the old iron bedsprings were pressed almost against Carl's chest.
And he remembered where he was. His grandfather tossed and turned in sleep, and snored with abandon. He was practically frozen solid now as his grandfather insisted upon sleeping with the windows flung open even in the dead of winter, and small mounds of snow dripped along the window ledge onto the floor. Carl squeezed his stiffened body out from under the bed remembering that his cousins had quickly given up the search for him and no one else in the family had missed him. The entire house was quiet in sleep. He tiptoed down to the second floor bedroom that he still shared with his father thinking, I am myself....I am myself!
Next morning, the kitchen was bustling with housemaids attempting to feed the enormous brood of cousins, and aunts and uncles who had come for the holidays.
"Carl, there you are, you dog" his cousin Andreas called out while stuffing a greasy sausage into his mouth.
"Where were you? We could never find you. We even looked in the attic." Carl stared at Andreas with good-humored contempt.
"Don't lie, Andreas; you'd never go there. You're afraid." Carl said bluntly as he reached over his cousin's head and grabbed the last sausage from the platter.
"No, um not!"
"Yes, you are."
"Carly, Carly," Trudi shouted interrupting the boy's argument and ran to greet her older brother who being in a rather unusual light-hearted mood, patted the little girl's head as she hugged his knee caps. Carl quickly slouched into an empty chair and joined the children who were busily consuming blintzes, breakfast cakes, and warm almond milk. He was ravenous and this was a rare festive moment in the Jung household. The opulent spread of delicacies would only last through the rest of the holidays, but it was a harmonious and tranquil time.
"Uncle Paul says children are not to go into the attic." Andreas continued his defense.
"Yes," Carl said, "children" looking Andreas straight in the eye as he washed down cake with milk in big sloppy gulps.
Carl didn't know what his parents might think of his trips to the attic but they were a secret that he could not share with anyone, least of all Andreas who he considered a bit of a sissy. He did like tormenting him though. He watched the gang of cousins out the third story window playing in the snow, throwing snowballs at each other. He knew his father would be in his study. His mother and her sisters were in her parlor on the first floor, holding a séance. He stole past his grandfather's room and began a slow climb up the creaky attic stairs. The old man was practically deaf, but still wily, and Carl was careful not to disturb him. He slowly opened the heavy door, and moved into the dark room and sat down. He reached for the matches he had hidden in a box behind the door and lit the candle he carried in his pocket. He crawled across the broken beams to the far corner where he had placed a little box. He opened it and found the little wooden figure he had carved. The rough-hewn figure was just as he'd left it several weeks before. Carl had painted a black top hat, frock coat, and boots on him just like the clothes the villagers wore. The figure lay inside the cloth-lined box, next to tiny pieces of glass and stone Carl had found. He held the figure and began speaking to it.
"I am sorry; I've not had time to spend with you," Carl said to the figure. "I've had a houseful of noise and distraction, but the most amazing thing has happened." He began to recount the story of the child in the cellar, telling the figure about his fear and then later, his resolve to go farther into the cellar and be confronted by the girl, child, sprite, he wasn't sure what she was.
"As soon as everyone is gone, I'll be sure to write another letter to let you know what new things I've discovered." He placed the figure back in the box and then sat for a while in the pale light contemplating the joyful goings on below. They seemed strange in this otherwise cheerless household. The laughter of aunts and uncles and the silly pranks and chatter of the cousins did not touch him. He was above it; it could not reach him or his carved figure in the perplexing place he found himself. After some time, he became aware of the darkness; the candle had melted into a puddle on the floor.
"I will write again as soon as I can." He said his goodbyes to the figure, and then carefully retraced his steps across the rotten, worm-eaten beams to the attic door. He was elated now as he ran down the stairs, feeling that he and his wooden doll had shared a great mystery. He would guard this mystery as he would guard his own life.
After the holidays, things returned to their normal dreary routine, Carl began to realize that his encounter with the cellar sprite had in some way changed him. He couldn't tell how but he felt it. He repeated the phrase, "I am myself" as he walked along the muddy road to the village school and this gave him a sense of joy. It was like a fog clearing, but he had to find her again. He had to see her and understand her language better and how was he supposed to do this? Would he have to hide under his grandfather's bed and fall into a dream trance in order to conjure the sprite.
He took a detour across a field, climbing over fences, and stumbling into a grove of Larch. He was so cold. He had no socks to wear that day and his feet were numb and stiff inside his broken down shoes. He huddled near a rock, pulling his coat around him. The evergreens were wet and green with life and he found his body hungered for the embrace of the earth, to join with it, to enter it and create with it. He found himself lying face down in the wet earth, digging his fingers into it. And then she was there, just out of reach sitting on a stone at the edge of the grove.
"You.... you're here." He stammered. "Hold me," he called out to her, and soon she was there with her arms around him. He noticed now that she was not really a child at all. Her face was smooth and flawless like a child's, but it was not the face of one. Her eyes held memories, the memories of many people and the memory of "once upon a time," the first stories ever told. These fragments continuously changed flicking back and forth. They passed through her eyes in blue, purple, yellow, and in shapes of wheels, sticks, fire, stone, a human figure emerged, then disappeared. Carl found himself trying to interrupt the movement like the clumsy boy he still was. He waved his hands in front of her face to get her attention, to focus only on him, to pin her down and soon the intensity of her presence faded away and was gone. She had slipped through his grasp. He sputtered and raged after she was gone; he stood up and kicked at the stone where she had been sitting, but soon realized he had made a terrible mistake in trying to force her to see only him. He felt tears burning in his throat and he let out a scream to scare them away. He would scare them all away. He stayed in the woods that day, freezing as it was and played war. He built a fort in the earth down behind a large boulder and covered the hole with leaves, pine branches; he gathered more stones and debris from the winter storm. He sank into his earth hole, waiting to do battle, envisioning an army of enemies coming for him.
Carl awoke at dusk, a thin streak of light at the horizon. He pulled himself out of the hole and ran home. At the door to the house, his father greeted him as he was saying goodbye to a stranger.
"Carl, this is....that is very bad manners....this is my son, Carl, Dr. Gustav."
Carl had tried to hurry by, but not before he noticed Dr. Gustav's unusual likeness to his wooden doll in the attic. Carl's father had stopped him. He was filthy with mud caked all over one side of his body. Evidently his father had not noticed, nor had Dr. Gustav.
"Very nice to meet you Carl," Dr. Gustav put out his clean white hand for Carl's filthy one. Carl was surprised at how warm and calming the hand felt.
"N.... ice t'meet you, sir." Carl stammered then hurried inside.
"He's a shy boy," Carl heard his father say. Then voices were lowered and he heard only some soft mumbling.
In the study that evening, Carl's father told him about Dr. Gustav.
"I have been asked to become the pastor/counselor to the university's mental hospital, the Friedmatt. It is a great honor for me because this is the same section of the hospital where your grandfather once worked."
"What does this mean father?"
"This means I will minister to the needs of the mentally insane?"
"And who are these people?" Carl asked eager to know more.
"They are all types of people from everywhere who have brain disorders and mental impairment: they are sick in their heads and perhaps their hearts."
"In their hearts, father?" This fascinated Carl, for he had passed the Friedmatt many times on his way into town. It was a large somewhat foreboding place, and now his father seemed overjoyed at the opportunity to work there.
"Will I be able to go with you father?" Carl asked. He was beginning to feel a tug in his heart, between his carved figure, the cellar sprite, and the sick people his father would work with.
"I doubt it. I don't think it would be appropriate for me to bring my son into such an environment." His father had been caught off guard by Carl's intense interest.
Carl was disappointed but let the conversation drop. He could hear his mother saying goodnight to her séance friends. They were at the vicarage several nights a week now, and his sister Trudie often participated in the gatherings or sat by the hearth playing with her homemade Ouija board. His heart continued to stir.
Carl rose early to walk to his new school. He had left the village school, and now would attend the Humanities Gymnasium, in Basel. He walked for an hour to and from school every day. The landscape he traversed changed radically from his home to the gymnasium. It began on country lanes that wound curiously through thick forests. There were dark patches where the dense foliage completely blocked the sun, and then this gave way to open sunlit meadows. Carl tramped along almost content in this green world. The green turned into the noise and grime of industrial alleys of the city. Here he passed men at work, their bodies laboring under the weight of machinery, gears, cogs, spinning and grinding down. He hurried past these alleys as fast as he could until they transformed into the majestic boulevards that surrounded the cathedral and the school. Here the air cooled and expanded. This daily trek seemed to Carl like a journey across transparent planes of time and place that crossed yet never touched. He arrived at school and then again at home, disoriented and cranky.
One day several months into the school term Carl turned a corner and ran into a pack of vagrant boys making their way along the street looking for a fight. Carl had been in many fights with most of these boys and had been expelled on occasion when their scuffling had turned violent. Today he didn't hesitate to throw off his rucksack and roll up his sleeves. He was in just the right mood to give the boys a trouncing. He slammed into the head of the pack knocking him off balance and into a rock wall. He kicked another who tried to get by him, and then he began throwing punches at the remaining six boys who quickly scattered under the rapid fire of Carl's fists yelling, "crazy lunatic," as they ran from him. He sprawled on the wet grass of the cathedral laughing, trying to catch his breath. His pack had been thrown into the mud; one shoe was lying in the street. And he was soaked through his shabby clothes. He gathered up his belongings and ran to the school. By the time he got to his classroom, it was time for gymnasium. He hated gymnasium but he hurried to change his clothes and line up for activities which unfortunately was his least favorite....the rope climb. He stood in line, wet, somewhat still out of breath, watching his gym master, Master Grosskund order one boy after another up the huge knotted rope. Several boys were too small or too large for the activity. When they faltered or began to slip, Master Grosskund whipped his thin little switch against their legs. This helped some boys to climb beyond the master's reach, but many of the boys simply fell to the floor, humiliated.
"Who is it that smells like a wet dog?" the Master asked as he sniffed the air, walking up and down the line tapping his switch against his leg. The boys in the line pointed to or shouted out, "It is Carl, sir."
"Ah, yes. Carl. The country ruffian, the pastor's queer child. It is your turn to climb," Grosskund shouted, slapping his whip against his own leg. Carl stepped forward but rather than grab the rope, he looked at the master and asked, "to what and to whom am I to entrust myself?
"Well..ah....to me of course; you may entrust yourself to me," the master replied, somewhat cowed by Carl's audacity. Carl was nearly as tall as he was. In spite of his poor diet, he had turned into a brawny boy.
"That simply will not do," Carl blurted out and made a dash for the door knocking down several boys in line as he went.
Although Carl was a scrappy street fighter, and loved a good tussle with other boys, when it came to orderly, methodical physical exercises, he was timid and uncomfortable. That was the last day he would attend gymnasium and soon he was removed from the class and allowed to spend this time in the library, where he devoured books, history, philosophy, the classics, and drew and painted his odd pictures.
There were at least three men in the room with his father that night; Dr. Gustav was one of them. Carl could detect their different voices as they rose and fell with strange words he could only imagine the meaning of. He had been studying secretly, as he liked to think, in his father's library tucked behind one of the large sofas. The men had entered the room suddenly and were all gathered around the fireplace drinking tea and had no idea he was in the room. As he eavesdropped on their conversation, he held his breath, and his body as still as possible. He realized they were discussing the insane asylum.
"But is it necessary to restrain the patient in such a manner, doctor?" Carl recognized his father's voice.
"Oh, quite necessary, you see Pastor, he is what some call a power devil." Carl strained to hear every word, but he could only catch some of the words.
"This must be difficult for you to understand, and yet...."
"Not really ........traces of hysteria......
"....are these experimental realities....."
"I prefer the term....detached fragments of personality....."
"....these are partial souls...."
The voices fell to a whisper as the hour passed, and the fire burned low. The words fell on him like pieces of light, tiny cold crystals. He had strained so long to hear, that his neck was stiff and he now had a pounding headache. The men got up to leave and his father dampened the fire and showed them to the door.
Carl would not go to bed that night. Instead, he curled up in the wool blanket and lay as close to the dying fire as possible and thought of these partial souls. He dreamed, of course.
Soft rain is coming down in the sun and so the rain looks gold. He is walking alongside a hill carrying a key looking for a lock to fit it in. The hill is very high and is covered with exotic cacti, purple, red, and incandescent green. He finds a stairway up the hill through the cacti and begins his ascent. He is more aware now of the unusual plants, succulents, hearts and stars, rainbow, grandfather cactus with its wiry white beard. He climbs passed the silver star and Datura, passes a cluster of living stones that begin to move and change shape. He struggles under the weight of his fear. When he reaches the top, he finds a medieval knight on guard. The knight has been watching his uphill struggle with contempt and now stands, blocking the path with his wooden foot. The knight terrifies him. The wooden foot sticks out at him, warning, threatening, dangerous. He does not understand it. Then he realizes he has arrived at the door to a church and he hears a terrible moaning coming from inside. While the knight takes a deep breath, Carl manages to sneak past the wooden foot, to escape its kick, and he pulls the heavy door open. When he shoves the door aside, he lets in a flood of light and the congregation inside turns their frightened angry faces toward him and he hears himself calling out as loudly as he can, "I am looking for God."
Sandra Florence received her Master's in English/Creative Writing from San Francisco State University, and has been writing and teaching in Tucson, Arizona for the last thirty-five years. She taught at the University of Arizona for 19 years, at Pima Community College, and in a number of community education settings working with refugees, the homeless, adolescent parents, women in recovery and juveniles at risk. She has also run writing groups for children and parents. She is the recipient of two NEH grants, one in 1997 under the initiative, The National Conversation on American Pluralism and Identity, and through the grant ran a community writing project for three years, and the second in 2015 entitled Border Culture in the Classroom and in the Public Square. She has published scholarly articles on writing and healing and writing as a tool for public dialogue. She published a book of poems, entitled, The Radiant City, in 2015 and is currently working on a short story collection.