Von Franz, Robertson Davies, and the Mysterious Conclusion of The Manticore
It is said that Marie Louise von Franz’s meeting of Robertson Davies in Toronto was something of a surprise for each of them.
The anecdotal story goes something like this. Von Franz, the old guard Jungian Analyst from Zurich did not initially have warm feelings toward Davies, the would-be London actor, now a Toronto professor and writer of books with subjects that stretched the archetypal themes of everyday life. In fact, it may be that von Franz was peeved because of the similarity between herself and Dr. von Haller, the Jungian Analyst Davies positions in the central drama of Manticore, his novel that outlines the contours of the first stage of analysis as it may have been practiced at the C.G.Jung Institute in Zurich. Davies, the Canadian dramatist, was larger than life in his persona that he effectively mythologized in the ever-widening circle of followers who looked to him for his entertaining mysteries that often hung on the intriguing scaffolding of Jungian psychology. Apparently, as we may later see, the robust persona presented by Davies may well have covered up an insecurity that conceivably could have cut short his early attempts at a career in the theatre.
Marie Louise von Franz, on the other hand, lived the reserved life of a Jungian psychoanalyst who felt more at home with her gardening, books, and studies in the classics of languages, mythology, fairy tales, antiquity, religion, and the general world of the archetype, the foundational building blocks of Carl Jung’s Analytical Psychology. As a psychodynamic psychotherapy that came to be associated with the “care of souls,” a “journey into wholeness,” this undertaking to which von Franz had given her life was not to be lightly presented in fictional creations for self-gain in which the work of analysis itself might be misrepresented, distorted, or even ridiculed dismissively.
So... who is this Davies character who dares to insert himself within the walls of the Institute with its Swiss-like decorum and respect for boundaries, and then to dare presenting something like a case study of such tragic characters in a rather preposterous plot however entertaining, however representative of true cases it may be?
But something happened between von Franz and Davies. Was it his charm? Or was it his vulnerability that seems to have been so disarmingly presented when he confided in von Franz and told her of a troubling dream. In his dream he finds himself on the London stage where he forgets his lines and cannot remember even which play he is performing at the moment. Davies wondered if this dream revealed a feeling of inadequacy. Von Franz responded very assuringly, “I would have said it is an indication to you that you don’t go on stage to say what other people have written, but to say what you have to say yourself.” 
Did the professor and Master of Massey College at the University of Toronto understand what the Jungian Analyst was saying to him in her interpretation of his dream? Apparently he took enough away from the encounter that he shared it with others. However, I have some doubt that he really understood the very profound perspective that undergirds von Franz’s interpretation. In any case, the conclusion to The Manticore is ambiguous enough to suggest that Davies did not existentially grasp, or be grasped by, the experience of individuation.
And it is “individuation” that Davies’ dream points toward, a meaning he had not anticipated in his personal wrestling with the dream’s imagery. Davies’ perspective on the dream’s meaning was reductive. He reduced the images to the level of a neurosis rooted somewhere in his childhood past, a very Freudian take on the dream and a viewpoint Davies had been attempting to escape. He knew there is a difference between a traditional Freudian perspective that would reduce the dream’s imagery and meaning to some disturbance that had origins likely in a very early childhood, on the one hand, and a Jungian perspective that is synthetic (uniting the opposites), prospective (considering the potential that lies hidden within the neurosis and strives to be manifest), and teleological (pointing toward an “end” that represents a culmination of one’s life in its physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions.)
This Jungian perspective that is synthetic, prospective, and teleological emerges from a study of the human personality that reveals its purposiveness and creativity prompted by the unconscious that appears to nudge us with a kind of goal-directedness. Analysis thus becomes a “waking up” to the process within that is striving toward an actualization of our wholeness, the telos of which Jung chose the word individuation, to be distinguished from individualism and individuality – terms that catch the nuances of ego-directed activity and identity.
A person may thus be very charming, intellectual, nice, kind, cooperative, likeable, religious, and accomplished in some facet of life, but still not “be awake.” Jung compared the path toward individuation as having similar demands upon the human personality as the process of becoming a Zen adept under the tutelage of a Zen master. Jung says this,
... let a Master set us to a hard task, which requires more than mere parrot-talk,
and the European begins to have doubts, for the steep path of self-development
is to him as mournful and gloomy as the path to hell. (CW 11, para. 902)
Or, as Jesus of Nazareth said,
How hard it is for those who have riches to make their way into the kingdom
of God. Yes, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than
for someone rich to enter the kingdom of God. Those who were listening said,
“In that case, who can be saved?” [Meaning, “Goodness! If money, power,
influence, and position don’t get us in, what hope is there, for these are the
most important things in life and the rewards of all our striving.”] Jesus replied,
“Things that are impossible by human resources, are possible by God.”
Obviously, Jesus is not just picking on the wealthy in this saying that appears in all the Synoptic Gospels and has reliability and authenticity. Like Jung describing each of us who shies away from the work when it gets hard, Jesus is saying there is something in human nature that can be intimidated by fear, uncertainty, and great effort when it involves risk but it is precisely the undertaking of this risk involving fear, uncertainty and great effort by which one enters the Kingdom, not through the easy route of power, prestige and money. And, like the child who fears taking that very first step, that very first time of taking the training wheels off the bicycle, we will continue to face the risk of all new steps until the day we die.
However, the “risk” of individuation is not simply another exercise in bravery. In fact, that was the training of Robertson Davies in facing his stage fright: “ Be brave; try harder.” And there is a place and time for developing the courage of stepping into the darkness prepared for the spotlight that will then be thrown upon us. However, von Franz’s interpretation of his dream reminds him that one may have to step out of assigned roles and listen to an inner voice in order to be able to express the creative truth of one’s life that wants to come out. In this case, the ego has to turn loose the trappings and scaffoldings of others and trust the Other.
Davies must have sensed something of this calling early in his life. He reports that he was very interested in doing analysis with Esther Harding, MD (1888-1971). She was one of the first pioneers of Jungian psychology who gave up a promising medical career in London to go study with Jung in 1919. In 1924, she relocated to New York where she became instrumental in forging the Analytical Psychology Club of New York, the Medical Society for Analytical Psychology, and the C.G. Jung Foundation for Analytical Psychology while writing a number of major works on Analytical Psychology. These included The Way of All Women, Psychic Energy, and The I and the Not-I.
Dr. Harding lectured widely and spent summers in Bethel, Maine, where she saw analysands from the U.S. and Canada. At some point in 1959, Davies approached Harding and asked to do analysis with her. For reasons not made public, of course, she did not accept him as an analysand.  How did he deal with this rejection? How did he present himself in his interview with Harding? What did she sense in his shadow, positive or negative? Was she herself constellated by this Master of Massey College, man of letters, professor, successful writer of drama and fiction, winner of awards for drama and fiction, and an active force in the media of newspapers, TV, and radio? Why did he “need” to do analysis – to inform his curiosity and provide a backdrop for further writing, to appease his ego and compensate for a lingering sense of inadequacy, to keep up with his colleagues in Toronto who themselves had become analysts, or because, as I suggested earlier, he felt a nudging toward a treasure he could not define but innately knew lay buried deep in the recesses of his unconscious, guarded by the Great Dragon who lets by only those who have come to the end of their rope and must let go, dependent only on a Power not yet disclosed. Or ... did Harding sense that his destiny lay in the myth that already was surrounding Davies, a path best not tampered with?
Was it this experience that led to the ironic ending of The Manticore, a conclusion that compromises his decades-long pursuit of Jungian studies and undercuts the process of David Staunton’s growth at the hands of one more female who tells him what he should do. In the mind of Liesl, Davies’ animus possessed patroness, portrayed in The Manticore, “Jo Haller”, the Jungian Analyst, is simply one more of the followers of a philosophy, a formula, a system in which the individual becomes ensnared as do the members of all cults. Liesl warns David: That Freud, Adler, Jung ... “they devised systems.”  David is warned he will never be able to rise higher than the analyst who indoctrinates him, and he should strive to stand on his own two feet. In order to teach him how to do so and find courage to live his life, she generates a would-be “initiatory numinous experience” in the cave of the bears, after which he feels indebted to Liesl and emotionally close to her as well as the other guests accommodated within her patronage of extensive means. And so, at the end of the story, David is uncertain of his path, caught within the ambivalence of his Liesl-charged freedom and the open-ended uncertainty of a continuation of his analysis with von Haller back in Zurich.
How are we to understand David’s dilemma? How are we to respond to Liesl? And how can we do either without allowing ourselves a final reflection on the mind of Robertson Davies himself as we experience its conflicting tensions at play within The Manticore? How would von Franz respond to the novel? Perhaps it is not just the comparison of herself with Dr. von Haller that disturbs von Franz? Maybe she, like us, did not quite know what to make of Davies’ ironic ending. Or ... maybe she intuited that he could do no better.
Let’s listen, then, to von Franz.
... the psychology of the unconscious runs into the same boundary as modern
physics has encountered. To the extent that we are dealing with statistically
expressible, average facts, we can describe them exactly; however, the individual
event can never be grasped in exact terms – we can only describe it as honestly as
possible. Just as the physicists cannot say what light is “in itself,” but only on the
basis of two experiments, describe it as particles or waves, psychology too runs
into similar difficulties. We cannot say what the unconscious and the process of
individuation are in themselves, but we can attempt to describe some of their
relatively typical manifestations. 
In the same context, von Franz adds that at the core of each human life is a center, the Self, a kind of God-image, from which and through which there arises an impulse to complete one’s life. This impulse does not come from the ego of the analysand or the analyst but from the center that strives for psychic wholeness. The analyst serves only to remind the analysand of her deep center which remains generally out of sight until she “wakes up.”
Still, there comes the question, but what can I expect in my analysis? How do I keep faith with and endure a process that seems, simultaneously, so near and yet so far – so natural and yet so foreign. It is a fair question, and most analysts have attempted to answer the question not only for the analysands but for themselves as well.
So... here are some responses. You will note the attempts to be vague while attempting clarity, on the one hand, and the other, you will note the attempt to clarify while also concealing. Forgive us. This is no play at gamesmanship, no attempt to play cat and mouse. It is rather the nature of the process: Light is not light unless there is darkness; and there is no darkness where there is no light. You might say that the tension created between light and darkness provides the depth dimension to a picture. So it is with Analytical Psychology which, after all, is labeled a depth psychology.
But, that said, let’s clarify. Von Franz describes it quite plainly: We begin with the anamnesis, and what follows in the great majority of analyses is the descent into the layers of psyche. Thus we early on come to the shadow. Too soon, it seems! For in the archetypal realm of the shadow are all those facets of ourselves we have learned to suppress, repress, deny, hide, rationalize, project upon others, and in general distance ourselves as much and as far as possible. We find it very hard, very shameful, to admit our anger, our aggression, our sexual fantasies and exploits, our weaknesses, our acts of betrayal of ourselves and others. This becomes confession time! Time to own up! Time to welcome home to our consciousness those undesirable parts of ourselves that have been left out in the cold and, in some cases, have turned even against ourselves.
From there, von Franz would say, we gain the strength – because we now have grown with the great resources that shadow provides – to encounter that Power in which we can either lose ourselves and die or embrace and welcome as a new guide for our lives. This is a tricky step. It represents an encounter with the animus (for the female) or the anima (for the male). Be very careful. She who bids us come hither with a shrug of her voluptuous hair and the twinkle of her flirtatious eye may lead us into the twilight peril of the “river of no return,” in which we lose everything and become so drained we may never recover. Be very careful. He who sways us with his enchanting speech and sensual embraces may imprison us within his “tower of intellectualized opinions,” from which we cannot escape, where we waste away our beauty, gifts, and youth. Be very careful. For we may pass by or ignore or discount that one who brings New Life in forms we did not even know possible and hence do not recognize because we have settled for safety and security, or because we have become addicted to the thrill of danger or the familiar pattern of abuse.
But, if this Power is indeed the guide – the soul mate, inner and/or outer – then we may discover the portal that leads us to Self which is the central archetype, the organizing center of our personality in which we find completeness and wholeness. At this one point, the religious function, the psychological development, and the social commitment intersect with the discovery of an identity that leads one to declare “This is who I am. I have come home!”
This portrayal of Analysis describes the classical process, the archetypal stages of growth that may be discerned under circumstances that favor the opus, the Great Work. However, Jung rightly points out himself that individuals may end their analysis early for a variety of reasons that he lists as follows:
1) after receiving a piece of good advice;
2) after making a fairly complete but nevertheless adequate confession;
3) after having recognized some hitherto unconscious but essential psychic
content whose realization gives a new impetus to one’s life and activity;
4) after a hard-won separation from the childhood psyche;
5) after having worked out a new and rational mode of adaptation to perhaps
difficult or unusual circumstances and surroundings;
6) after the disappearance of painful symptoms;
7) after some positive turn of fortune such as an examination, engagement,
marriage, divorce, change of profession, etc.;
8) after having found one’s way back to the church or creed to which one
previously belonged, or after a conversion;
9) after having begun to build up a practical philosophy of life (a “philosophy”
in the classical sense of the word)
(CW 12, para. 3)
This is quite a list, isn’t it? And to think, not one of these “accomplishments” describes the experience of “individuation.” The list provides many examples of the kinds of suffering and resolution that may bring people to the analyst, but they do not describe the process by which the synthesis occurs when opposites are united, the prospective vision arises when one’s life feels nudged forward, or the telos shines when we are bidden to follow the unique star of our destiny. This process does not focus on the suffering, the alleviation of suffering, or the cure of illness as such. Individuation involves the making whole of the personality that enables a meaningful endurance of suffering and the joy arising from a deep peace of being at one with oneself.
More clarity? Let me try again by listing those stages Jung dared enunciate – probably at a weak moment, feeling some compulsion to respond to those critics who accused him of mystical obscurantism. He tried to contain the process within the number four:
1. catharsis: This is the early stage of unburdening one’s life by confession and thereby experiencing the great relief and peace when one’s psychological/spiritual isolation is broken and authentic contact is made with a caring, accepting human being.
2. elucidation: References are made here in this stage to the grand heroic and tragic drama of humankind, enabling insight into the realm of the unconscious as it gives shape to human life.
3. education: The analysand begins in this stage to “work through” the tension of conflicting opposites, perhaps extremes, in her life toward a synthesis via the transcendent function – a process out of which the new possibility arises.
4. transformation: Finally, the individual claims the work that has been accomplished, the identity that has arisen, and “puts together” a way of being in the world that honors one’s essential self.
These stages are not sequential. They are in process at various phases and in ways by which the process may be described as a gyre—a funnel that touches down, rises, whirls around, speeds forward and finally comes to rest at a new place. But as if this was not enough, Jung also borrowed from alchemy to describe the process in three stages:
1. the nigredo: the darkening of the process
2. the albedo: the whitening that represents a washing, making possible a kind of resurrection of the dead body and reuniting with the soul.
3. the rubedo: This stage represents the highest intensity, symbolizing a union of the opposites, by which new life can begin again and bring forth the progeny of its endeavors. This final step in the alchemical process represents the archetype of the self.
(CW 12: para. 333-334)
Obscurity? There we have it, and even my very brief descriptions of the operations do not help us with our rational minds to “understand.” But we may “feel.” Additionally, these functions or operations are not listed sequentially and are not intended to describe anything like a systematic process or philosophy or method. Rather, they represent, in the ancient language of alchemy, those objective processes occurring in the psyche through the interplay of conscious and unconscious. I present them here as a further elaboration on the process suggested by von Franz to portray the movement of the psyche toward a sense of wholeness. These operations have been taking place within the human psyche for centuries – long before there was a Jungian psychology. As von Franz says:
... the process of individuation is not only brought about by Jungian analysis, but
is in itself a natural process, which can be carried to a fruitful conclusion by every
individual who works on himself with honesty and perseverance. Jung’s achievement
consists primarily in having brought this process into consciousness and in having
found out how it is possible to support it. Fundamentally, it matters little what this
process is called as long as one experiences it consciously. Based on what I have seen,
there also exist strange and unusual paths found by unusual people with the help of
the unconscious. 
That hardly sounds like someone attempting to indoctrinate a convert (analysand) with a method, or philosophy or system, as Liesl warned David that Jungians would do. The difficulty I have with Liesl, then, is two-fold. It is not that she proposes a non-Jungian way of growth. Jungians will acknowledge there are many ways to undertake the “night-sea journey” in behalf of re-claiming the soul’s treasure; Von Franz says it eloquently. And Jung put it most succinctly when he would say he was glad to be Jung and not a “Jungian,” and further, when he showed so little interest in beginning a Jung Institute for psychoanalysis!
No, a non-Jungian way, that there is a way other than psychoanalysis – that much of what Liesl stood for is not the issue. She goes on, however, to commit two very strange acts. First, she disparages Jung, Jungian psychology, the work of analysis, those who practice it, and those she accuses of letting themselves be made “invalids” by it (Davies, p. 247). Second, she commits a very abusive, if not, criminal, act by leading David into the cave, trapping him there, extinguishing the light, subjecting him (and herself) to the dangerous, suffocating-like crawl toward the exit of the cave – an experience for him of confusion, shame, terror, excrement, pain, exhaustion, and verbal humiliation.
David Staunton’s relief when he escaped the cave and offers Liesl his apology (!) sounds like the affection toward one’s captor reminiscent of the Stockholm Syndrome (p. 258). Claiming a friendship bond between the two of them sounds more like settling into a relationship where once again David is the captive and a strong, animus-possessed, domineering woman consents to become his captor, where Nettie pushes back his penis’ foreskin in her dutiful bathing of the young David after having also dutifully administered his enema.
What strange, strong, and commanding women surround David in Davies’ mind and novel. What strange, conflicting imagery and narrative surround the Jungian experience in Davies’ mind and novel. Is it passive-aggression that leads him to undercut the school of psychology for which he had become a kind of spokesperson in Toronto, a school of psychotherapy that honored the soul in all its varied manifestations, a school of analysis that gave to the world such prominent analysts as von Franz and Esther Harding? Is it a voice of the shadow we see in the working mind of Davies that may have had its genesis in 1959, or earlier in his childhood when a split occurred and he became of “two minds,” as did his fictional character, David Staunton, hearing a voice shouting in a theatre and shockingly coming to realize the voice belongs to him?
With this in mind, let’s listen again to the dream he shared with von Franz. He is a young actor on stage in London. When the drama moves to the point Davies is to speak his line, he can remember neither the lines nor the play he is performing. The dream appears to end in that terrifying moment. And in the way von Franz experiences the dream, she offers this interpretation: “I would have said it is an indication to you that you can’t go on stage to say what other people have written, but to say what you have to say yourself.”
And it was indeed what he had to say himself that has charmed, entertained, and enchanted us. More, what he had to say found a “stage” in his persona that itself appeared to evoke mythic images from old England and spread from there to Canada and beyond. In his persona and in his plays, novels, and other writings, Davies created a myth that became his fiction, or we might say more accurately, he created a fiction that became his myth. And here are the wonder and the tragedy of Robertson Davies.
If we are to understand what Carl Jung meant by a “personal myth,” that it represents a kind of wholeness in which conscious and unconscious are integrated, that it grounds us in the telos of our unfolding story emerging from the unconscious, that it unites the opposites which would fragment us with opposing voices, then we see why Davies could find no satisfactory conclusion for The Manticore. Liesl and von Haller speak with quite different voices, each of which we may suspect represents the unanalyzed unconscious of the Master of Massey College. Davies can take us no further than the lingering question in the mind of David Staunton (read, Robertson Davies) at the non-conclusion of the novel: “But I know that not later than tomorrow I must know what face the woman wore, and which woman is to be my guide to the treasure that is mine.”
 This account is described wonderfully well in “The Robert Moss Blog,” May 22,
 Grant, Judith S. (1994). Robert Davies: Man of Myth. New York: Viking.
 Davies, Robertson (1972). The Manticore. New York: Penguin Books, p. 247.
 von Franz, Marie-Louise (1994). The Individuation Process, Archetypal Dimensions
of the Psyche. Boston: Shambala Publications, Inc., p. 298. This essay was first
published as “The Process of Individuation” in Man and His Symbols, (1968),
ed. C.G.Jung. New York: Doubleday.
 von Franz (1994), p. 261.
The Collected Works of C.G.Jung are cited as CW, followed by the volume number and paragraph.