Women and Carl Jung: Emilie Preiswert

The most comprehensive information I could find about Jung’s mother is from Frank McLynn’s 1999 biography, Carl Gustav Jung. He doesn’t hesitate to do a kind of psychoanalysis of her effect on Jung:


Carl Gustav Jung

St. Martin’s Press

Jung imbibed superstition almost literally with his mother’s milk, for Emilie Preiswerk was a psychic and an `uncanny’ to the point where her son was afraid of her at night. Photographs show her as a forbidding woman, and though she bore Jung when she was just twenty-seven, her youthful charms faded fast, to the point where she was considered ugly as well as domineering. At an early age Jung decided it would be dangerous to let her see too much of his inner life. Although after her death he was to claim that he derived from her an earthiness and a hearty animal warmth’, and that her intuitive gifts gave him the security to explore the depths of the psyche, this was hindsight rationalization. While she was alive he feared her in a very real sense, and her grip on him was such that, just before her death, when Jung was in his late forties, she suddenly appeared in his study, whispered a few `uncanny’ words and then vanished, leaving Jung unnerved by her visit and shaking like an aspen for hours afterwards.

From his mother Jung inherited a not always pleasant ability to see people and things as they really were. Once at a wedding he told an `imaginary story’ to a barrister. An embarrassed hush fell on the company and Jung was later reproached with indiscretion for having told the man’s life story; even more worryingly, he could not remember a single detail of what he had said. His intuitive ability was partly because Emilie treated him as a grown-up when he was a child and confided to him secrets she would not divulge to her husband. Jung said that he learned to divide everything she said in her normal mode by two, `but then came the moments when her second personality burst forth, and what she said on those occasions was so true and to the point that I trembled before it.’ It was from observation of his mother’s `split mind’ that Jung claimed to have learned `the natural mind of woman.’ It was from her too that he intuited the secrets of `splitting’ end `dissociation’ that he was later to put to such good use in his studies of schizophrenia. His mortal fear of schizophrenic tendencies in himself was based on the knowledge of the genetic inheritance he could expect from his mother. Just as his mother was a loving carer by day and a demon by night, Jung sensed in himself a `day’ and `night’ personality.

But by far the worst aspect of his mother’s `dualistic’ legacy was that it made it impossible for Jung in later life to integrate his feelings in a single woman. Because it was from the maid, not his mother, that he had introjected the ideal image of femininity or `anima’, he was ever afterwards interested in the dual-mother motif and in the fact that so many mythological heroes have dual mothers. His later polygamous tendencies can be attributed to a childhood that taught him never to put all his trust in a single woman. He was also left with a deep well of rage, which accounts for the aggressiveness manifested in his adult life, the mood swings and the sudden volcanic eruptions. Yet if his mother had dominated the first eleven years of his life, the dominant factor in his adolescence and young adulthood would be his moody and introverted father.

Jung’s parents Paul and Emilie were both the youngest in families of thirteen children — a fact the superstitious and numerological Carl Gustav junior did not fail to invest with significance. Paul Jung promised great things in his youth and was a brilliant student of oriental languages (principally Arabic) at Gottingen University, but he was a depressive and found himself in his thirties an obscure pastor in the Swiss Reformed Church Evangelical in a backwater in Canton Thurgau. Quiet and unassuming in public, he was quarrelsome and bad-tempered in private, and the marriage with Emilie Preiswerk did not prosper, especially as his dreamy, scholarly nature clashed with her `uncanny’ personality — clearly she had inherited a double dose as a `psychic’ from her Preiswerk parents. Their root problem was sexual. Some have speculated that Paul was somewhat lacking in virility, or that Emilie was terrified of sex; possibly both factors were at play, but it was not a happy marriage.

Even an infant is aware if there is something amiss with parents, and Jung’s childish intuition was not wrong. In 1878 his parents separated temporarily and his mother spent some time in a mental hospital. The trauma for the three year old, who developed eczema and went to live with his aunt, was profound. From then on he always felt mistrustful when the word `love’ was spoken and associated `woman’ with innate unreliability. `Father’, on the other hand, meant reliability and powerlessness. Psoriasis and eczema are well-known psychogenic complaints, and his mother’s apparent splitting of personality or `dissociation’ may have been the reason why he always feared schizophrenia in himself.

The morbid atmosphere in the nursery was typical of many Victorian childhoods but his neurotic mother added a `superplus’ of anxiety, especially when she taught him prayers like the following:

Spread out thy wings, Lord Jesus mild,
and take to thee thy chick, thy child.
`If Satan would devour it,
No harm shall overpower it,’
So let the angels sing!

Jung later commented drily, with a mordant wit worthy of Bertrand Russell that Jesus appeared to be a winged creature who `took’ little children (`chicks’) reluctantly like bitter medicine. That was hard enough to understand, but the difficulty was compounded by the further notion that Jesus ate them anyway, even though he did not like the taste, simply to prevent Satan from getting

We know that Jung’s parents had a disastrous sexual relationship, with his mother full of fears and dread which his father could not assuage, and it is well known from clinical experience that children are insecure if they sense that their parents are not united in a loving sexual way. Even if we did not have Jung’s testimony, we would surely wonder what was going on in a milieu where birth control was either unknown or considered sinful and where Paul and Emilie, themselves both from large families, should have taken nine years to produce a sibling for Carl Gustav. At the very least, a sexual-cultural critique of this dream would denote a culture full of sexual repression, possibly one also where dire warnings about masturbation had been issued to the boy. Some biographers have speculated that Jung’s eventual break with Freudianism was predetermined by his Calvinist background, which meant he would never be able to reconcile himself to any theory positing the supremacy of the flesh.

The atmosphere at home continued to be stressful and superheated. His parents were still sleeping apart and young Carl had many anxiety dreams. When he was seven he suffered from croup and choking fits and even in his sleep had nightmares about suffocation. He later suggested that this was a `psychogenic’ factor, and that the atmosphere in the house was beginning to be unbearable. His negative feelings for Jesus were such that he hated going to church except at Christmas, which was the one Christian festival he liked. He began to suspect that his mother had a diabolical side which surfaced at night, and more and more he found it was his father who was the `motherly’ one. One night in 1883 his father got him out of bed and carried him in his arms to the west-facing porch to show him the evening sky, which was lit up with the celestial effects of the eruption of the Krakatoa volcano.


This is a summary of material from Jung’s autobiography, Memories, Dreams and Reflections:

An eccentric and depressed woman, Emilie Jung spent much of the time in her own separate bedroom, enthralled by the spirits that she said visited her at night. Jung had a better relationship with his father because he thought him to be predictable and thought his mother to be very problematic. Although during the day he also saw her as predictable, at night he felt some frightening influences from her room. At night his mother became strange and mysterious. Jung claimed that one night he saw a faintly luminous and indefinite figure coming from her room, with a head detached from the neck and floating in the air in front of the body.[5]

His mother left Laufen for several months of hospitalization near Basel for an unknown physical ailment. Young Carl Jung was taken by his father to live with Emilie Jung’s unmarried sister in Basel, but was later brought back to the pastor’s residence. Emilie’s continuing bouts of absence and often depressed mood influenced her son’s attitude towards women — one of “innate unreliability,” a view that he later called the “handicap I started off with”[6] and that resulted in his sometimes patriarchal views of women.[7] After three years of living in Laufen, Paul Jung requested a transfer and was called to Kleinhüningen in 1879. The relocation brought Emilie Jung in closer contact to her family and lifted her melancholy and despondent mood.


The Occult World of CG Jung
Fortean Times

His maternal grandfather, Rev. Samuel Preiswerk, who learned Hebrew because he believed it was spoken in heaven, accepted the reality of spirits, and kept a chair in his study for the ghost of his deceased first wife, who often came to visit him. Jung’s mother Emilie was employed by Samuel to shoo away the dead who distracted him while he was working on his sermons.

She herself developed medium­istic powers in her late teens. At the age of 20, she fell into a coma for 36 hours; when her forehead was touched with a red-hot poker she awoke, speaking in tongues and prophesying. Emilie continued to enter trance states throughout her life, in which she would communicate with the dead. She also seems to have been a ‘split personality’. Jung occasionally heard her speaking to herself in a voice he soon recognised was not her own, making profound remarks expressed with an uncharacteristic authority. This ‘other’ voice had inklings of a world far stranger than the one the young Carl knew…

xperiences that are recounted in practically every book about him. Sitting in his room studying, Carl suddenly heard a loud bang coming from the dining room. He rushed in and found his mother startled. The round walnut table had cracked from the edge past the centre. The split didn’t follow any joint, but had passed through solid wood. Drying wood couldn’t account for it; the table was 70 years old and it was a humid day. Jung thought: “There certainly are curious accidents.” As if she was reading his mind Emilie replied in her ‘other’ voice: “Yes, yes, that means something.” Two weeks later came a second incident. Returning home in the evening, Jung found an excited household. An hour earlier there had been another loud crack, this time coming from a large sideboard. No one had any idea what had produced it. Jung inspected the sideboard. Inside, where they kept the bread, he found a loaf and the bread knife. The knife had shattered into several pieces, all neatly arranged in the breadbasket. The knife had been used earlier for tea, but no one had touched it nor opened the cupboard since. When he took the knife to a cutler, he was told that there was no fault in the steel and that someone must have broken it on purpose. He kept the shattered knife for the rest of his life, and years later sent a photograph of it to psychical researcher JB Rhine.

2 Responses to Women and Carl Jung: Emilie Preiswert

  1. Intuitively i have always considered myself to be one of the many grand-daughter`s of Carl Jung…with the variety of strange energies that surrounded my child life…always did I have a sincere belief and devotion to a knowing that i could heal myself…What i did not realize, is that it would take all of my life to do so…At least i can say that i have come far,and enough to experience an open loving heart….

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