• The Solar Myths and Opicinus de Canistris

The Solar Myths and Opicinus de Canistris

Notes of the Seminar given at Eranos in 1943

Edited by Riccardo Bernardini, Gian Piero Quaglino and Augusto Romano

200 pages, illustrated, ISBN 978-3-85630-756-1

C.G. Jung held an ‘extemporaneous’ seminar on “The Solar Myths and Opicinus de Canistris” at the 1943 Eranos Conference. In a complete version for the first time, this book presents all of the known material relating to the seminar, including notes taken by two of his students, Alwine von Keller and Rivkah Schärf Kluger, and the outline that Jung himself prepared. Opicinus de Canistris (1296–c. 1352) was a priest and cartographer from near Pavia, Italy. His typically medieval cartography is characterized by historical, theological, symbolic and astrological references along with a curious anthropomorphism, which depicted continents and oceans with human features. Jung recognized this as a projection of Opicinus’ inner world and interpreted the maps of the world as mandalas, where the integration of the shadow, the dark principle, was missing.

From the contents:
Opicinus de Canistris. Concluding Seminar, Eranos, Ascona, 1943 (Speaking Notes by Carl Gustav Jung)
Notes on Jung’s Seminar held on August 12 and 14, 1943, by Alwine von Keller and Rivkah Schärf Kluger
Rivkah Schärf Kluger. A Life Fuelled with Intensity of Spirit and Rare Depth of Soul, by Nomi Kluger-Nash
Alwine von Keller (1878–1965). A Biographical Memoir, by Riccardo Bernardini, Gian Piero Quaglino, Augusto Romano



In mid-2012, while sorting through some material in the former house of Carl Gustav and Emma Jung in Küsnacht/Zurich, we came across a set of handwritten notes by C.G. Jung. The six untitled, small slips of paper on the subject of ‘solar myths’ and an obscure manuscript of the Italian late medieval priest, Opicinus de Canistris, may have gone unnoticed, if it weren’t for Riccardo Bernardini, Gian Piero Quaglino, and Augusto Romano. At that time, Bernardini and his colleagues were just about to prepare an edition of Rivkah Schärf Kluger’s stenographic notes of Jung’s previously unpublished 1943 Eranos lecture on the very topic of the solar myths and Opicinus de Canistris. This coincidence allowed us to properly attribute Jung’s original notes and to further authenticate the transcript of the Schärf Kluger notes deposited at the C.G. Jung Papers Collection in the University Archives of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (eth) in Zurich.

Jung’s original notes—reproduced in this volume for the first time—in fact consist of two sets: three pages of what seems to be a first, crossed out draft and six pages with what must have served as keywords for Jung’s lecture. While little record was preserved in the eth Archives on the origins and context of that talk, Bernardini’s research in the Eranos Archives presented in the Introduction to this volume makes it clear that Jung initially did not plan to give a talk at the 1943 Eranos meeting. He only agreed at short notice to an impromptu presentation outside the framework of the regular program at the end of the conference. The re-discovered original notes confirm the rather spontaneous character of his lecture. It appears likely that he only drafted them in the course of the conference. Yet again, he must have had the idea to talk about the Opicinus de Canistris Codex beforehand, as he had some of the phantasmagorical cartographic drawings from it on display while presenting. He was obviously fascinated by the wealth of psychological material presented in the Opicinus manuscript. Jung was deeply engaged in the study of Eastern religions and philosophy in the early 1930s and turned to the subject of a psychological interpretation of alchemical literature in the second half of the decade, but sometime during this period the Opicinus manuscript, edited by Richard Salomon in 1936, must have come to his attention. It is likely that in the relative isolation of Switzerland during the years of World War ii Jung finally found the time to study the Opicinus Codex more closely, and now was eager to share this striking material with his audience at Eranos—irrespective of the general theme of the conference. It does not take much imagination to see why Jung must have been intrigued by the Opicinus manuscript, which is nowadays widely considered the first documented case of paraphrenia in the history of psychiatry.

Previously, we could only speculate why Jung’s 1943 lecture on Opicinus de Canistris was never published during his lifetime. Bernardini and his colleagues with their research have now established that Jung himself did not wish to have it included in the 1943 Eranos Yearbook due to his cautiousness not to alienate the Catholic Church over some of the issues he spoke about. Some twenty years later, the editors of the Collected Works (cw) after Jung’s death also decided against a publication. The Schärf Kluger notes in the early 1960s were considered for inclusion in the final volume (no. 18) of the Collected Works, but when the ‘final disposition of floating material’ was established in 1964 by the editorial committee, the ‘Opicinus de Canistris (1943), stenogram’ was listed under the omitted items. This decision may have been partly based on the fact that the Opicinus lecture did not meet the general criteria that only texts written by Jung himself were to be included in the Collected Works. But the editorial correspondence also gives another hint:

Concluding Lecture at Eranos 1943. [Aniela] Jaffé’s description of this as a lecture on the ‘Prophecy of Opicinus de Canistris’ is somewhat misleading, since only the last 7 of these 26 pages are concerned with him. At this point Jung illustrated his talk with pictures drawn from the Codex Palat.[inus] Lat.[inus] 1993, Vatican, which are evidently reproduced in a book by [Richard] Salomon dealing with this Codex. These pictures would have to be included if the lecture were taken up into cw. The first 18 pages are concerned, specifically, with primitive Sun cults—the theme of Eranos 1943 … The lecture seems to have been given impromptu, and reads as though it had been faithfully taken down in shorthand.

The fact that there is no obvious connection between the two main subjects of the talk seems to have been one of the main reasons why Jung’s 1943 lecture was not published in the framework of his Collected Works, together with the technical question of how to include the illustrations from the Opicinus Codex. The content of Jung’s presentation has therefore gone largely unnoticed so far.

It is all the more welcome that the editors of this book have taken the initiative to establish the full historical background of the coming about of this talk, and are presenting in this volume the various sets of notes and reports preserved from the lecture, together with Jung’s original notes and the illustrations from the Opicinus manuscript. On behalf of the Foundation of the Works of C.G. Jung, I would like to congratulate them on their achievement and to thank them for their efforts in finally bringing the full records of this text to publication.

Thomas Fischer

Foundation of the Works of C.G. Jung




It was at Eranos in August 1947 that Carl Gustav Jung signed the editorial agreement for the first project for the collection of his writings, the Collected Works. The collection represents, as is known, the first time that Jung’s works were systematically grouped together in English. This edition was later to serve as the basis, with some adaptations, of the German version (Gesammelte Werke), the Italian edition (Opere), and, eventually, the translations into other languages. Nonetheless, beginning with Henry F. Ellenberger, historians have pointed out how far the Collected Works were from being really Jung’s ‘complete works.’ They have played a decisive role in the spread and development of analytical psychology. Yet, they really do not include everything that Jung wrote all his life long. After his death a noteworthy quantity of further material came to light, material that was in various stages of completion, which was referred to as ‘floating material.’ This material became part of The Symbolic Life, Volume xviii of the Collected Works. There is therefore a probably significant number of unpublished works by Jung, which we hope to see in print sooner or later.

This book is meant to contribute by adding another link to this important on-going work of critical editions. The publication of Jung’s seminar on The Solar Myths and Opicinus de Canistris, held at Eranos in 1943, is the result of the successful synergy between the Eranos Foundation and the Foundation of the Works of C.G. Jung. The archives of the Eranos Foundation proved to be essential, in this case, for helping to recuperate the records of the seminar through the notes of one of Jung’s students, Alwine von Keller, who lived at Eranos from 1937 to the early 1960s. In addition, the Foundation made a large amount of documentation available to the editors, without which it would not have been possible to reconstruct the historical context of Jung’s seminar completely. 

The publication of this book is part of a broader program of enhancement of the archival and cultural heritage of the Eranos Foundation. Several publications have already been issued: the catalogue, Carl Gustav Jung at Eranos 1933–1952, the testimony of a photographic exhibition of the same name curated and edited by Gian Piero Quaglino, Augusto Romano, and Riccardo Bernardini in 2007, to mark the tenth anniversary of the Turin University Faculty of Psychology; the book, Jung at Eranos. The Complex Psychology Project (2011) by Riccardo Bernardini, the first work based on a systematic study of the documentation of the Eranos Archives; and a critical edition of the correspondence between Carl Gustav Jung and Henry Corbin, published in 2013. Three outstanding critical editions are among those being prepared currently: Emma von Pelet’s Analytic Diaries, Alwine von Keller’s Pictures of the Unconscious, and Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn’s Visions. Further studies have been published in prestigious international journals, such as The Journal of Analytical Psychology and, above all, Spring—A Journal of Archetype and Culture, with which the Eranos Foundation has long worked fruitfully.

Besides the events organized by the Foundation, the spaces at Ascona-Moscia host other activities. As is known, the houses at the Foundation have for decades been privileged places for meetings, events, and specialized seminars. They have also offered for opportunities to resident scholars for periods of study and research. The Eranos Lecture Hall, built in 1928, still has all of its fascination. The historical library of Casa Gabriella holds a wide range of books on psychology, history of religions, philosophy, Eastern studies, literature, and the history of art. There is now an important, on-going project for the preservation and enhancement of the archival heritage and library of the Foundation. So that this heritage can has an adequate space, the Foundation will commit itself in the coming years to the construction of a new well-equipped and lit building next to Casa Gabriella, which will host scholars and researchers interested in the archive and library resources, to which this book is precious testimony. We entrust it readily to our readers with pleasure and pride.

Fabio Merlini

Eranos Foundation




Carl Gustav Jung’s Eranos Seminar on
The Solar Myths and Opicinus de Canistris

Riccardo Bernardini,
 Gian Piero Quaglino
 & Augusto Romano

1. Carl Gustav Jung at Eranos and the 1943 Conference

Carl Gustav Jung’s (1875–1961) reflections on religious issues take up a considerable amount of his studies. It would be more accurate to say that they are indeed one of its main supports. In particular, his studies on Christianity occupied the main portion of the last twenty years of his intellectual life. Jung’s interest in the phenomenology of religion is hence the point where his works encounter those of other psychologists, mythologists, theologians, and historians of religion whom he had the chance to meet during the Eranos Conferences (Tagungen). (figure 1) Eranos was created at Ascona-Moscia (Switzerland) in 1933 under the initiative of the Dutch scholar (but born in London) Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn (1881–1962). (figure 2) The Eranos Conferences wound up becoming the most important interdisciplinary meeting point between Jung and scholars of different disciplines on the topic of the ‘archetypal structures’ underlying religious phenomena.

Jung’s encounter with Eranos coincided with a decisive phase of his intellectual life. At Eranos he found a stage for himself that was international and academic at the same time. Eranos helped strengthen the development of his thoughts and studies in a meaningful way. It did this even though it had no direct influence on issues more strictly connected with the clinical practice of analytical psychology. Eranos give him an important chance to extend and spread complex psychology, as did the seminars he held at the Psychology Club and his teaching activities at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (eth) in Zurich. Furthermore, Eranos was an equally meaningful space for dialogue and meeting with other researchers, whom Jung himself would question. At Eranos Jung was first thought of as a scholar, rather than just a clinical psychologist. The discovery of the collective unconscious and the theory of the archetypes were spread widely precisely because of Eranos, even though at times these concepts ran up against objections and scepticism and were sometimes misinterpreted theoretically. The encounters may have been dominated by the spirit of Jung. Nevertheless, each speaker took in his own independent perspective, sometimes in tune and sometimes out of tune with the Jungian way of looking at things. In short, Eranos was a real community of diverse individuals.

As the philosopher and scholar of Islam, Henry Corbin (1903–1978), recalled: ‘The spirit of Eranos [was] nourished and comforted by the exchanges of points of view of those who made up the circle … For years, Jung was something like its tutelary genius … The encounters with Jung were something not to be forgotten.’ And the biologist Adolf Portmann (1897–1982) remembers how Jung’s ‘lively presence, the vast circle of his interests, the stimulating wealth of his language constituted an important stimulus for … the conferences form year to year. Likewise, the conversations on the shore of Lago Maggiore undoubtedly contributed to the evolution of his thought.’ This intellectual encounter was characterized in the years of Jung’s presence at Eranos mostly as a meeting and convergence of paths of research, which had been conducted independently up until that point. This encounter gradually became an original and fertile interdisciplinary crossroads, above all in authors like Marie-Louise von Franz (1915–1998), Erich Neumann (1905–1960), James Hillman (1926–2011), and Hayao Kawai (1928–2007). Jung contributed to giving a ‘psychological framework’ to Eranos, as Eranos contributed to giving an ‘intellectual framework’ to Jung’s psychology. In all the talks that Jung gave at Eranos, we can always observe a solid reference to his clinical experience, from which he deduced the fundamental principles of his theory. Yet, Jung’s work was presented in a new light at Eranos. Concepts like the ‘collective unconscious’ and the ‘archetype’ seemed, in fact, to shift at Eranos from their original psychological elaboration in the direction of a philosophical and cultural re-thinking.’

The evocative nature of the place certainly played a role in Jung’s involvement at Eranos. As the Africanist, Laurens van der Post (1906–1996), recalled, Jung considered the Swiss mountains a bastion, a ‘magic circle,’ or a ‘mandala,’ which protected the work at Eranos in the darkest years. In effect, Eranos was the only international convention centre active in Europe during the war. In August 1951, Jung wrote this message on the occasion of the 70th birthday of Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn: ‘Thanks to the enterprising spirit and devotion of Mrs. Fröbe, Eranos, which I wish a long future for, has become an institution that represents the only chance in Europe for experts and laymen animated by spiritual interests to meet and exchange their own opinions beyond all their specialized limitations. Already twenty years ago, Eranos had thought out today’s efforts towards the joining together [Zusammenfassung] of all the sciences and thus made a contribution in its unique way to the European intellectual history … What made Eranos so valuable for me personally was the fact that Mrs. Fröbe’s hospitable house always provided the opportunity for spontaneous discussions at the Round Table. I recall with pleasure and gratitude countless evenings overflowing with stimulation and information, providing just what I so much needed, that is, personal contact with other fields of knowledge. For all this I am deeply grateful to Mrs. Fröbe.’ On March 30, 1957, in a note Jung wrote for a publication celebrating the first twenty-five years of Eranos, he expressed this wish: ‘May the light of the European spirit, which has shone out of Eranos for so many years in these times of darkness, still have the gift of a long life, so that it can play its role as the beacon of a European union.’

Eranos stands as a place where there was a chance to experience Jung not only as a scholar but also as a person. From the 1940s on, the ‘official’ moment of the conference, held in Casa Eranos, (figure 3) was complemented with informal discussions that were reserved to a small group of speakers and a few other guests and that generally took place during the mealtime break on the terrace of Casa Gabriella. The group got together around a great Round Table, between two high cedars and right across from the stone monument that was put up in 1949 in homage ‘To the unknown spirit of the place’ (Genio loci ignoto), the fruit of the idea of Jung and the historian of religion, Gerardus van der Leeuw (1890–1950). As his secretary and then student, Aniela Jaffé (1903–1991), (figures 5, 13, and 14) recalled, ‘Conversation between Jung and the other conference speakers took place in a small circle, in pleasant calm, at midday and evenings around the great Round Table in the garden, or in Casa Cabriella. At the very beginning of Eranos, Jung once appeared for dinner, pointed out the Round Table, and said: “This is the true Eranos!” [Das ist der wirkliche Eranos!]’ Jung talked about all the topics he could and the young psychologists participated there with special interest. Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn wrote that these informal discussions at Casa Gabriella or at the Round Table were almost more important than the lectures themselves and it was too bad the words were not taken down. (figure 5)

Another moment for encounters was the so-called ‘terrace-wall session’ (Mauerchen-Sitzung), which, as Aniela Jaffé recalls, took place as follows: ‘During the intermission and after the lectures, Jung would perch on the little wall of the terrace, and immediately participants and pupils, but particularly his female students—who were soon given the punning nickname, Jung-Frauen, “Jung-women” or “virgins,”—would gather around him like a cluster of grapes. Jung would discuss each lecture psychologically, and every question, however short and simple, received a rich response. These were the most impressive and the liveliest teachings in psychology that we were ever to experience.’ (figure 4)

Jung seemed to take delight in these moments of exchange and it would often happen that he invited a group of his students from Zurich to his lodging at Casa Eranos, which Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn had been providing for him since 1940. He did this because not everything had been talked through completely at the ‘terrace-wall’ or because he wanted to go over some thoughts that had come into his mind in the meantime, often summoned up again by the conversations at the Round Table. Many of these conversations related not only to the basic concepts of his theory but also to some core moments in his life. They were documented for twenty years by his student, Margret Ostrowski-Sachs. As Aniela Jaffé recalls, the ‘terrace-wall’ sessions took a particular ‘special nuance when Erich Neumann of Israel was present; for then—unlike the usual situation, where we only questioned—there arose a true dialogue. We listened.’

Jung appeared as a speaker at Eranos for the first time in 1933. He gave a total of fourteen talks up to 1951. These were published in the Eranos Yearbooks (Eranos-Jahrbücher). They were then revised, expanded, and published in the Psychological Treatises (Psychologische Abhandlungen)—except for his essay, On Synchronicity (1951), which was not changed from the original version published in the Eranos-Jahrbuch—and then in his Collected Works. Jung’s annual talks were looked forward to each year. He missed only the 1944 conference, when a serious illness kept him from attending. Even on this occasion he asked his students and other guests who were at Ascona about everything in detail and expressed his happiness that the symposium had gone well in his letters. He participated for the last time in 1952, but only as a listener. Two commemorative Yearbooks were published in his honor on his seventieth birthday (1945) and seventy-fifth birthday (1950). Henry Corbin wrote for Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn and Jung a eulogy, Eranos: Freedom and Spontaneity (1962). In her first talk at Eranos, The Creative Phases in Jung’s Life (1971), Aniela Jaffé read some passages of The Red Book, still unpublished at that time. Likewise, she gave her last talk in August 1975, C.G. Jung and the Eranos Conferences, on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of his birth. It was at Eranos, in the living room of Casa Gabriella, that the Bollingen Foundation was founded in the early 1940s. It was there that the contracts for the American, English, and German editions of the Collected Works were drawn up in 1947. It was there, in August 1956, that the project for Jung’s biography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections by C.G. Jung, became a reality.

On August 23, 1942, Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn wrote to her friend and confidant, Ada Hondius-Crone: ‘Next year’s topic is “Helios,” which is a very broad field of research. It will talk about the “Sun” and the cult of the Sun in mythology, the role of “light” in the Gnosis, the god Ra in ancient Egyptian texts, and Christ-Helios in ancient Christianity as well as the symbolism of the Sun in Mexico, Babylonia, and the Nordic cults. It seems that this would be a favorable “omen” to treat this topic. The world really needs to get more “light” and more “consciousness.”’

We can just imagine how disappointed Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn must have been, when she found out that Jung could not have enough time to prepare a text for the symposium of the following summer. William McGuire (1917–2009) points out that in 1943 the name Carl Gustav Jung does not appear in the Eranos Conference program for the first time in ten years. Jung’s biographer, Barbara Hannah (1891–1986), likewise writes that Jung’s ‘creative libido’ was already flowing into his great book, Mysterium Coniunctionis (1955–1956), and so he did not feel like distracting himself in order to draw up the text of a talk. Jung arrived in Ascona anyway that summer along with his wife, Emma. (figures 3, 5, and 14) For Jung and his wife, Eranos was an event that they looked forward to all year and that they took as a chance to relax even against the background of the liveliness that marked the symposium. From August 4 to 11, Jung participated as a simple listener in the entire convention, which by then had taken on the title, Helios. Mittelmeerische Sonnenreligionen (‘Helios: the Religions of the Sun in the Mediterranean’).

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Opicinus de Canistris: Concluding Lecture by C.G. Jung, Eranos, Ascona, 1943

Notes taken by Rivkah Schärf Kluger

Ladies and Gentlemen! As you can see, I have the honor of concluding with a brief epilogue at this conference of ours, a conference that has been so successful. We have heard so many wonderful things, and with such magnificent organization and thoroughness that I am preparing myself to take on my task—that of giving you a halfway decent epilogue—with a certain embarrassment. When we hear lectures of such depth, conveying so many things, which come out of the highest culture, at least in my case there are many questions that come to mind. The high points of culture are mountaintops rising high above the plains—plains somewhat submerged in fog and somewhat marked by marshes or fertile fields. My glance turns to what lies all around these mountaintops and at their feet. All of these cultures were built on foundations that go back far in time, foundations we find only hints of in the materials that is directly available to us.

So, when we are dealing with Sun divinities, our glance readily goes back to the so-called primitives and we may ask ourselves: what did they do with the Sun? You know, the Sun is just one of the planets in ancient astrology, as it is in alchemy. It is in a position that is certainly prominent but not dominant. There is the Sun and the Moon and the host of planets—and it is precisely in alchemy that the Sun is not the main point. In fact, the coniunctio soli et lunae is the main point. And, what is more, Mercury is more important. Or, in certain older forms of alchemy, it is Saturn. So, perhaps for the primitives too, the Sun is not at all in the first place. Really, I’m now talking in a way that’s wholly a cross-section. Here I can’t present you with more accurate material for, in the little time that I was given, it would have been entirely impossible to set forth something more thorough; I can only give you some examples.

For instance, Bataks know that there are many Suns. They have a cosmogonic myth that begins with this notion—that, originally, there were many Suns. That was very uncomfortable for people because it was always terribly hot. There was no night at all. Then the Moon helped the people in that it tricked the Sun into eating up its own children. From then on, there was only one Sun. That is an attempt to begin differentiating the Sun out of an original multiplicity—in a more or less henotheistic way. What’s more, the Sun is made by people, it is made by the forefathers, by the ancestors. For example, there is that well-known Navajo myth, which tells how people gradually climbed out of the four absolutely dark underworlds under the Earth until they came to the surface of the Earth, where they then heaved up a shield to the sky, and that became the Sun. Hence, there is no trace of any kind of high honor for this shining star.

Sometimes, too, the Sun obviously plays a role. I can talk from my own experience. Among the small ethnic groups where I spent some time in east Africa—the so-called Elgonyi, I was first impressed by that fact that these people apparently had a Sun cult. They used the word, adhîsta, and that meant, ‘Sun.’ And so I first assumed that their God is the Sun. They tied in with this view a kind of—really, more than optimism—of a euphoric pantheism. They called everything good and beautiful, for which they used a special word, msuri, which could be lengthened as they wished so to express the different degrees of bliss. So, they said, msuuri, msuuuri, and even higher levels. Thus, everything that goes along with it is good and beautiful, so I assumed that expression was the Sun; therefore I once made the comment at half past nine in the morning at the palaver: so this god is mungu. This is a word borrowed from Swahili that the Elgonyis used. I was speaking [word missing]-Swahili with them, which one had to speak with them, and mungu is the word that was also used by the missionaries in order to translate the word, ‘God.’

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Jung, C.G.

The Solar Myths and Opicinus de Canistris

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