Marie-Louise von Franz
Marie-Louise von Franz
|Died||17 February 1998 (aged 83)|
|Known for||psychological interpretation of fairy tales and of alchemy|
|Influenced||Jean Dalby Clift|
After World War I, in 1919, her family moved to Switzerland, near St. Gallen. From 1928 on, she lived in Zurich, together with her elder sister, so that both could attend a high school (gymnasium) in Zurich, specializing in languages and literature. Three years later, her parents moved to Zurich as well.:xxxvi
In Zurich, at the age of 18, in 1933, when about to finish secondary school, von Franz met the psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung when, together with a classmate and nephew of Jung's assistant Toni Wolff, she and seven boys she had befriended were invited by Jung to his Bollingen Tower near Zurich. For von Franz, this was a powerful and "decisive encounter of her life", as she told her sister later the same evening.:135
At the meeting, Jung and the pupils discussed psychology. When Jung commented on a "mentally ill woman, who [actually, not to be taken symbolically] lived on the moon":18 M.-L. von Franz understood, that there are two levels of reality. The psychological, inner world with its dreams and myths was as real as the outer world. 
In 1933, at the University of Zurich, von Franz started studies in Classical philology and Classical languages (Latin and Greek) as major subjects and in literature and ancient history as minor subjects.
Due to her father's major financial loss in the early 1930s, she had to self-finance her tuition,:135 by giving private lessons as a tutor in Latin and Greek for gymnasium and university students. In the years after finishing her studies, she continued this to support herself, working on fairy tale texts.:136
In addition to her university studies, von Franz occupied herself with Jungian psychology. She attended Jung's psychological lectures at the Swiss Federal Polytechnical School in Zurich (now the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich) and, in 1935 and thereafter, also attended his psychological seminars. In 1934 she started analytical training with Jung.:xxxvii
In order to pay C.G. Jung for her training analysis, she translated works for him from Greek and Latin texts. Among others, she translated two major alchemical manuscripts: Aurora Consurgens, which has been attributed to Thomas Aquinas, and Musaeum Hermeticum. As many of its passages were of Islamic and Persian origin, M.-L. von Franz took up Arabic as study subject at university.:135
This was the beginning of a long-standing collaboration with C.G. Jung, which continued until his death in 1961. Their collaboration was especially close in the field of alchemy. Not only did she translate works, she also commented on the origin and psychological meaning of Aurora Consurgens. She offered support for the theory that the Christian-alchemical text might have been dictated by Thomas Aquinas himself.
The experience that Jung termed "objective Psyche" or "collective unconscious" marked her life and work as well as her way of living. She worked to understand the reality of this autonomous psyche, acting independently from consciousness.
She wrote more than 20 books on analytical psychology, most notably on fairy tales as they relate to archetypal psychology and depth psychology. She amplified the themes and characters of these tales and focused on subjects such as the problem of evil, the changing of the attitude towards the archetype of the female.
Another field of interest and writing was alchemy, which von Franz discussed from the Jungian psychological perspective. She edited, translated and commented on Aurora Consurgens, attributed to Thomas Aquinas, on the problem of opposites in alchemy. During her last years of life, she commented on the Arabic alchemical manuscript of Mu?ammad Ibn Umail Hal ar-Rumuz (Solving the Symbols). For alchemists, imaginatio vera was an important approach to matter. It resembles in many aspects the active imagination discovered by C. G. Jung. Marie-Louise von Franz lectured in 1969 about active imagination and alchemy and also wrote about it in Man and His Symbols. Active imagination may be described as conscious dreaming. In Man and His Symbols she wrote:
Active imagination is a certain way of meditating imaginatively, by which one may deliberately enter into contact with the unconscious and make a conscious connection with psychic phenomena.
A third field of interest and research was synchronicity, psyche and matter, and numbers. It seems to have been triggered by Jung, whose research had led him to the hypothesis about the unity of the psychic and material worlds--that they are one and the same, just different manifestations. He also believed that this concept of the unus mundus could be investigated by means of researching archetypes. Due to his advanced age, he turned the problem over to von Franz. Two of her books, Number and Time and Psyche and Matter, deal with this research. In 1968, von Franz was the first to argue that the mathematical structure of DNA is analogous to that of the I Ching. She cited the I Ching in an essay, "Symbols of the Unus Mundus", published in her book Psyche and Matter.
Another basic concern throughout many of her works was how the collective unconscious compensates for the one-sidedness of Christianity and its ruling god image, via fairy tales and alchemy.
In an analysis of the visions of Saint Perpetua, a martyr, she writes that such visions enable us to gain a deep insight into the unconscious spiritual situation of the time. They show the deep conflict of that time, the transition from Paganism to Christianity. "The martyrs appear in many respect as the tragic, unconscious victims of the transformation which was then being fulfilled deep down in the collective stratum of the human soul: the transformation of the image of God" :9,35,75
Another compensatory motif is the symbolism of the vessel of the holy grail in The Grail legend. In this book she discusses the psychological symbolism of the documented legends of the Holy Grail. It evolved out of the completion of Emma Jung's unfinished research, which Marie-Louise von Franz had been asked to take over and publish after Emma Jung's death.
In the visions of Swiss Saint Nikolaus von Flüe  she dealt with the aspects of the dark and evil as well as the cosmic side as part of a more holistic image of god. Von Franz says that the visions reveal basic tendencies of collective unconscious that seem to strive to further develop the Christian symbolism and by that giving points of orientation, showing where the unconscious psyche wants to let us notice and understand the problem of opposites and by that to bring us to more closeness and fear of God.
In addition to her many books, von Franz made a series of films in 1987 titled The Way of the Dream, along with her student, Fraser Boa. In The Wisdom of the Dream, a channel 4 television series, London 1989, von Franz was interviewed. Text of the film is printed in: Seegaller, S. and Berger, M: Jung - the Wisdom of the Dream. London 1989.
In 1941-1944 von Franz was an associate member of the Psychological Club, Zurich. There she first lectured on the visions of Perpetua on June 7, 1941, which later was expanded and published as her first book The Visions of Perpetua. In the following years, she held many lectures at the Zurich Psychological Club. They constituted the basis of many of her books. Between 1942 and 1952 she acted as its librarian.
In 1944 she became one of its full members.:xxxix
In 1948, she was a co-founder of the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich.
In 1974, von Franz together with some of her pupils (René Malamud, Willi Obrist, Alfred Ribi, and Paul Walder) founded the "Stiftung für Jung'sche Psychologie" (Foundation for Jungian Psychology). The aim of this foundation is to support research and promulgation of the findings in the field of Jungian depth psychology. It also publishes the journal Jungiana.
Jung encouraged von Franz to live with fellow Jungian analyst Barbara Hannah, who was 23 years older than she was. When Hannah asked Jung why he was so keen on putting them together, Jung replied that he wanted von Franz "to see that not all women are such brutes as her mother". Jung also stated that "the real reason you should live together is that your chief interest will be analysis, and analysts should not live alone." The two women became lifelong friends.
In 1935 Hedwig von Beit asked Marie-Louise von Franz to assist her part-time with writing a book about fairy tales. Von Franz indulged into a time-consuming 9-years research and interpretation work. Fairy tales became increasingly important to her in regard to psychological questions. The work is published in the book "Symbolik des Märchens" (Symbolism of Fairy Tales). Nevertheless, this book (of 3 volumes) was only published under the name of Hedwig von Beit. In her later talks and books, she connects fairy tale interpretation with everyday life. Alfred Ribi says, that von Franz might well be understood as the first to discover and demonstrate the psychological wisdom of fairy tales.:20
Von Franz's interpretation of fairy tales bases on Jung's view of fairy tales as a spontaneous and naive product of soul, which can only express what soul is. That means, she looks at fairy tales as images of different phases of experiencing the reality of the soul. They are the "purest and simplest expression of collective unconscious psychic processes" and "they represent the archetypes in their simplest, barest and most concise form" because they are less overlaid with conscious material than myths and legends. "In this pure form, the archetypal images afford us the best clues to the understanding of the processes going on in the collective psyche". "The fairy tale itself is its own best explanation; that is, its meaning is contained in the totality of its motifs connected by the thread of the story. [...] Every fairy tale is a relatively closed system compounding one essential psychological meaning which is expressed in a series of symbolical pictures and events and is discoverable in these". "I have come to the conclusion that all fairy tales endeavour to describe one and the same psychic fact, but a fact so complex and far-reaching and so difficult for us to realize in all its different aspects that hundreds of tales and thousands of repetitions with a musician's variation are needed until this unknown fact is delivered into consciousness; and even then the theme is not exhausted. This unknown fact is what Jung calls the Self, which is the psychic reality of the collective unconscious. [...] Every archetype is in its essence only one aspect of the collective unconscious as well as always representing also the whole collective unconscious.:1-2 (chapter1)
The fairy tales' hero and heroine - with which the auditory identifies - are taken as archetypal figures (not as common human ego) representing the archetypal foundation of the ego-complex of an individual or a group. "The hero restores to healthy , normal functioning a situation in which all egos of that tribe or nation are deviating from their instinctive basic totality pattern. Hero and Heroine form "a model of an ego [...] demonstrating a rightly functioning ego, [...] in accordance with the requirements of the Self".:21-45 (chapter4)
G. Isler explains further, "The figure of the hero as well as the whole story compensate what initially was an insufficient or wrong attitude of consciousness. The initial situation of need, misery and shortcomings is solved at the end having a structure which is more whole than the beginning. This corresponds to a renewal of the ruling consciousness (expressed e.g. in the young king), being oriented towards psychic wholeness and totality in a way that is more appropriate" to the demands of the Self, than before. "Fairy tales compensate individual consciousness, but also an insufficient attitude of collective consciousness, which in European culture has been coined mainly by Christianity." In contrast to personalistic-subjective ways of interpretation, the fate of the hero is not understood as individual neurosis, but as difficulties and dangers, being imposed on man by nature.
Von Franz had a lengthy exchange of letters with Wolfgang Pauli, winner of a Nobel Prize in physics. On Pauli's death, his widow Franca deliberately destroyed all the letters von Franz had sent to her husband, and which he had kept locked inside his writing desk. But the letters sent by Pauli to von Franz were all saved and were later made available to researchers (and published as well).:148
Von Franz was passionately interested in nature and gardening. In order to meet her love for nature, she acquired a piece of land at the borders of a large forest above Bollingen. There, in 1958, she built a quadrate tower following the example of C. G. Jung. The tower was meant to be a hermitage, having neither electricity nor a flushing cistern. She used to take her wood for heating and cooking from the surrounding woods. Besides the house, there was a bog pond, abundant with toads and frogs, which she loved. This tower enabled her "to escape modern civilization and all its unrest from time to time and to find a refuge in nature", as her sister reported. At that place, she felt "in tune with the spirit of nature" and she wrote a good deal of her books that she had planned early on in her life, and which she had realised one after the other, throughout the decades.:137
Between the 1950s and 1970s, von Franz travelled widely, not only for holidays but also for lecturing. She visited European countries including Austria, England, Germany, Greece, Italy and Scotland, as well as America, Egypt and some Asian countries.
After 1986 she turned to a more introverted life at her home in Küsnacht, Switzerland. Several times a year she took a retreat into her Bollingen tower, which in some years was up to a five months stay. She concentrated mainly on her creative work, especially alchemy and continued to meet friends and patients from all over the world.:xxxvff.
During her last years, von Franz had Parkinson's disease. Barbara Davies stated that she took only a minimum of medicine, so that she was increasingly physically affected by her illness until death, but could keep a clear mind and consciousness.
Most of these titles are a translation of the original German title. A few titles were originally published in English.
The Fountain of the Love of Wisdom: An Homage to Marie-Louise von Franz is a compilation of eulogies, essays, personal impressions, book reviews, and more from dozens of people who were influenced by von Franz. It also contains a list of von Franzens' English books.