I am reading Cal Newport’s new book called Deep Work. It starts with a story about Carl Jung, needless to say I was straightway hooked.
It couldn’t resist sharing the story with you. It starts like this…
In the Swiss canton of St. Gallen, near the northern banks of Lake Zurich, is a village named Bollingen. In 1922, the psychiatrist Carl Jung chose this spot to begin building a retreat. He began with a basic two-story stone house he called the Tower. After returning from a trip to India, where he observed the practice of adding meditation rooms to homes, he expanded the complex to include a private office. “In my retiring room I am by myself,” Jung said of the space. “I keep the key with me all the time; no one else is allowed in there except with my permission.”
How many of us wouldn’t give anything to have a place like that ourselves where we could go and work uninterrupted for as long as we want to and need to.
The story goes on:
In his book Daily Rituals, journalist Mason Currey sorted through various sources on Jung to re-create the psychiatrist’s work habits at the Tower. Jung would rise at seven a.m., Currey reports, and after a big breakfast he would spend two hours of undistracted writing time in his private office. His afternoons would often consist of mediation or long walks in the surrounding countryside. There was no electricity at the Tower, so as day gave way to night, light came from oil lamps and heat from the fireplace. Jung would retire to bed by ten p.m. “The feeling of repose and renewal that I had in this tower was intense from the start,” he said.
Though it is tempting to think of Bollingen Tower as a vacation home, if we put it into the context of Jung’s career at this point it’s clear that the lakeside retreat was not built as an escape from work. In 1922, when Jung bought the property, he could not afford to take a vacation. Only one year earlier, 1921, he had published Psychological Types, a seminal book that solidified many differences that had been long developing between Jung’s thinking and the ideas of his onetime friend and mentor, Sigmund Freud. To back up his book, Jung needed to stay sharp and produce a stream of smart articles and books further supporting and establishing analytical psychology, the eventual name for his new school of thought.
Jung’s lectures, and counselling practice kept him busy in Zurich – this is clear. But he wasn’t satisfied with busyness alone. He wanted to change the way we understood the unconscious, and this goal required deeper, more careful thought than he could manage amid his hectic city lifestyle. Jung retreated to Bollingen, not to escape his professional life, but instead to advance it.
Carl Jung went on to become one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century.
In the next post I will share some insights from the book on how to work deeply.