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Jung's dream about a ghostly customs official

THE DREAM - Carl Jung, the famous psychoanalyst, had the following dream "I was in a mountainous region on the Swiss-Austrain border. It was toward evening, and I saw an elderly man in the uniform of an Imperial Austrian customs official. He walked past, somewhat stooped, without paying any attention to me. His expression was peevish, rather melancholic and vexed. There were other persons present, and someone informed me that the old man was not really there, but was the ghost of a customs official who had died years ago. "He is one of those who still couldn't die properly." That was the first part of the dream.

After a hiatus came a second and far more remarkable part. I was in an Italian city, and it was around noon, between twelve and one o'clock. A fierce sun was beating down upon the narrow streets. The city was built upon hills and reminded me of a particular part of Basel,the Kohlenberg. The little streets which led down into the valley, the Birsigtal, that runs through the city, are partly flights of steps. In the dream , one such stairway descended to Barfusserplatz. The city was Basel and yet it was also an Italian city, something like Bergamo. It was summertime; the blazing sun stood at the zenith, and everything was bathed in an intense light. A crowd came steaming toward me, and I knew that the shops were closing and people were on their way home to dinner. In the midst of this stream of people waked a knight in full armor. He mounted the step toward me. He wore a helmet of a kind that is called a Basinet, with eye slits , and chain armor. Over this was a white tunic into which was woven, front and back, a large red cross.

One can easily imagine how I felt; suddenly to see in a modern city, during the noon day rush hour, a crusader coming towards me. What struck me as particularly odd was that none of the many persons walking about seemed to notice him. No one turned his head or gazed after him. It was as though he were completely invisible to everyone but me. I asked myself what this apparition meant, and then it was as if someone answered me - but there was no one there to speak:"Yes, this is a regular apparition. The knight always passes by here between twelve and one o'clock, and has been doing so for a very long time [for centuries I gathered] and everyone knows about it.

The knight and the customs official were contrasting figures. The customs official was shadowy, someone who "still couldn't die properly" - a fading apparition. The knight , on the other hand, was full of life and completely real.

THE REALITY Carl Jung had this dream at a time when he was developing his own ideas. He was starting to break away from the influence of Sigmund Freud. He felt pressure to fall in with the Freud - an established figure in psychoanalysis.

THE INTERPRETATION Carl Jung had these dreams at a crucial time in his own career. He had learnt from Freud and he was seen as a father figure in psychoanalysis. Yet Jung was now wanting to forge his own ideas and was wanting to split away from Freud. Yet anything he wrote had to pass the eye of Freud. Jung linked the dream to this battle with Freud. Its easy to see how the symbols work.

Freud represents the customs official. He is seen as a barrier you have to overcome. Jung sees Freud as a ghost because the influence he has is not recognised by Jung any more. That influence is, like a ghost, not really there.

Jung is represented by this knightly figure - this links to his 'holy quest for truth'.

Dream Dictionary Meanings
COULDN'T DIE PROPERLY: Jung still felt the pressure of Freuds ideas. Jung wanted to sweep his ideas away yet Freud would just not die.
CUSTOMS OFFICIAL: Freud - a man who was ready to vett the ideas of any other competing psychoanalysts.
GHOST OF CUSTOMS OFFICIAL: Jung was not ready to accept Freuds right to vett his ideas. His authority was waning.
KNIGHT: Jung's own quest for the Holy Grail. His theories on dreams.

DREAM MEANING The dream captures the following emotions within the dreamer - "I want to break from Freud and promote my own ideas on dreams. But everything I write has to be vetted by Freud - I have to gain his acceptance. I have my own quest for truth and it does not involve following the ideas of Freud."

See how the different symbolic meanings join together show Jung's feelings about Freud.

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The definitions on this website are based upon real dreams. If you feel like you have a dream which you understand then please feel free to email it to me at