The night after I finished this engrossing biography, I had a strange dream. The founder of analytical psychology, Carl Gustav Jung, was standing among the reeds at the edge of a pond. He was only six inches tall and struggling to fling a fish twice his size back where it belonged. Upon waking, I was overcome by shame. By Jung's standards, my raid on the empire of the unconscious could scarcely have been less impressive. I was plainly not the stuff of which redeemers of the race are made.
Jung's dreams, of course, were portentous from the start. As a boy, he had two seminal dreams that obsessed him for life. When he was only four he dreamed that he descended into a chamber, in which a red carpet led to a golden throne. On the throne stood a gigantic, fleshy phallus, 15 feet high and two feet thick, with one eye fixed in the centre of its faceless head. It was about to crawl towards him and devour him, and for some reason it reminded him of Jesus. The second dream occurred when he was 12. This one also featured a golden throne, from which the squatting Almighty dropped a Mr Ploppy so massive that it shattered the dome of the cathedral in Basel. Jung claimed that his whole career was an attempt to explain why God had inflicted such a wicked thought on his innocent mind.
Not that Jung's waking life was much less bizarre. As a lifelong devotee of spiritualism and seances, he took visitations from the dead in his stride. The apparition of his mother minus her head might reasonably be dismissed as the product of a child's overheated imagination, but what does one make of a full-grown man who not only says good morning to each of his pots and pans, but insists that his housekeeper greet them as well? And how much confidence could one place in a therapist who suspects that his dead father has returned in the guise of a dog called Pasha?
From the humdrum standpoint of most mortals Jung was patently bonkers. But for Jung himself, and for the thousands who fell under his spell, such symptoms of derangement were signs of his election as a psychic messiah, whose mission was to make mankind whole again. Besides, as Hayman reminds us, "Isaac Newton had religious delusions and was, for a time, certifiably insane, but this does not invalidate his law of gravity". Convinced of his cosmic destiny, Jung set about forging a creed that would restore the ancient, instinctual wisdom from which, he believed, the materialism and rationalism of modernity have severed us. …