An Unusual EventMay 16, 2021
[I was invited to give a guest lecture for a class at the University of Tubingen. I had never been there before and gladly accepted. I flew through Frankfurt and took a bus from the airport to the city center. I chatted with someone on the bus and we got off together and were walking to the east, I think it was, when I realized I had to get to the university right away. The class was scheduled for 11:00 a.m. and it was getting close to that. I asked where the university was and someone pointed to the west and said, “It’s right down this street. Just walk that way and you’ll come right to it. It isn’t far.”
I did walk a few blocks and there was the campus. I found the building for the class and was ten minutes late, which in Germany is not a trivial sin. Still, there was a lunch hour on the other side of the scheduled lecture so it was not a problem. There were several dozen students and as I began to speak “from my overflow” about the powerful changes technology has caused, they engaged in a flow of Q and A that made the dynamic conversation vibrate with energy. They were so smart and the questions were so good.
When we finished, most of them left to go have lunch, but about eight of us pulled our chairs into a circle to talk some more. The woman to my left was older, her hair was silvery white and came down straight, and her face was thin and her manner reserved or aloof. I did not feel extroverted vibes from her direction but when she spoke I was struck by the brilliance and sophistication of her insights. She used metaphors to express herself, one I forget and one was about money, and they so perfectly communicated the gist of what she wanted to say that, again, I was struck.
When the circle broke up and we stood around deciding where to go have lunch, I looked around for her after a few minutes, but she wasn’t there any longer. I asked the professor – a man with gray hair and a beard — who she was. Who who who? he asked. The woman sitting to my left, I said, The older woman who made those great comments. The one with silvery hair combed straight down, not particularly arranged, with angular features and a very cool manner. Her insights were striking.
The professor stared at me.
“Richard, there was no one in the chair to your left. The chair was empty.”
I described her again in more detail and the professor paled.
“I know only one person who fits that description. You are describing Frau —- (he said her name but I forget it) and she was killed in an auto accident in Zurich last month.]
I put that account in brackets because it was a dream, an uncharacteristically complete dream that I remembered in unusual detail when I woke. I googled the University of Tubingen and the map was exactly as I had dreamed, the street in the center of the city and down past a park to the west was the campus.
It is best to pay attention to the interpretations that suggest themselves to us as those too come from the psyche that was dreaming and have information for us.
The one that I thought at once was an echo of the concluding lines of James Joyce’s famous short story, “The Dead,” that the snow was general all over Ireland and falling on the living and the dead alike, uniting them in a communion of spirit. I have recently lost too many friends and the few relatives who were peers and not a day passes that I do not think of them and direct energy toward their presence and memory. I am also hyperconscious of how much I have learned has been transmitted in books, films, and more, by those who are dead. And this week we lost Rutger Hauer whose magical lines in Bladerunner as his character died, “all those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain,” were on my mind. And I am writing a novel, “Mobius: A Memoir,” that was stimulated by the loss of my dear friend Ken Olthoff but which took a different turn, drawing not so much on our conversations but on my entire lifetime of engagement with the sometimes conflicted as a friend and counselor.
But my wife had a different thought. She understood the woman to be my anima, the feminine dimension of my soul, which has animated so much of my life and creative energy, the “feminine dimension” for which I have been so grateful. Over twenty-five years ago I had another Jungian “Big Dream” in which I walked through a mansion and found many more rooms, richly appointed, than I thought were there. I came upon a woman – named Chris Martel, as it happens, a parishioner in Utah once upon a time — who was also richly attired, sitting at a writing desk in a lush study. “I had no idea you were so wealthy!” I said. She quietly smiled and went back to her work.
That dream was a communication from my psyche that I was in a transition between stages of life and my creative resources were so much more than I had known or could imagine. Midlife was not a crisis so much as a splendid opportunity — your second birth, Jung said, is your own creation. That dream turned out to be prophetic. 25 years of professional speaking and writing followed once I had the courage to leave a successful career and venture into the unknown. My first book was published when I was 60 and four more, fiction and non-fiction alike, have followed in the fifteen years since. “Mobius” is almost complete, I am co-editing a sequel to “UFOs and Government,” and my brain is mapping out another novel to be started as soon as this one is done. All God willing, of course, inshallah, as they say.
This is a reflection on the fact that we do not know ourselves as deeply as we think, and the rooms of those magnificent mansions, our psyches, those are the cells in our honeycomb souls, the house a familiar symbol of the psyche after all (think haunted houses, symbolizing fears of the unknown or the darkness in ourselves) and I share this simply to stimulate reflections on your own lives. If it doesn’t, well, delete is a handy key to the right.
Richard Thieme (www.thiemeworks.com) is a professional speaker and author. He mines the recesses of his soul as best he can and tries to bring up strange luminous fish from the deep.