Meredith B. Mitchell
February 22, 1998

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            By 1972, when I first travelled to Zürich, I believe I had read just about everything that was in print by Marie-Louise von Franz except for her Aurora Consurgens. I loved her style of writing and appreciated her profound and extensive interest in myths and fairy tales. I still do.

            While in Zürich, I called von Franz to request an appointment to see her, and she graciously found the time to see me. Several days later, I walked from Zürich to Küsnacht with much trepidation wondering, "How can I, a relative simpleton, converse with such a brilliant woman as the one I am about to meet? " I imaged my puny brain and boundless ignorance standing in stark contrast to her immense intellect and vast knowledge! Eventually, I arrived humbly at the great woman's door just in time for our appointment. A short but physically powerful looking von Franz greeted me at the door with her tiny dog. We introduced ourselves, and she led me into her consulting room, where her dog lay quietly at her feet throughout our time together. She seemed warm, pleasant, and surprisingly quite human. We worked on a couple of my dreams, but the most memorable moments of that meeting were her personal comments to me toward the end of our time together: When I told her that I had read everything I could lay my hands on that she had written except Aurora Consurgens, which I had purchased, but found very difficult, she laughingly replied, "Oh, don't bother. I only wrote it as an exercise for Jung. It is really not worth the effort for you to read it." Then, before I left, she said something like, "You know, when I first opened the door to you, I said to myself, 'This is a nice man.' and I was right." What a lovely comment! Of course, I returned it, because, in fact, I felt exactly the same toward her.

            We met a few more times after that during my 1972 visit to Zürich. One of those times was at a gathering to celebrate Jung's birthday. Laurens van der Post was there, and von Franz commented to me in a sad voice that the war had taken a great toll on him and his appearance. "He looks much older than he is," she sighed. She clearly held him in great esteem and spoke of him with much fondness.

            After that, my contacts with von Franz were limited to the times when she came to speak in the Los Angeles area. On one such trip, she graciously accepted my invitation to join me for dinner. We ate at a small restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard just about where Santa Monica and West Los Angeles meet. The restaurant specialized in duck dishes. She ordered duck l'orange. What a marvelous meal and conversation we had! She told me about her childhood and the development of her relationship with Jung. Whenever I spoke, she listened intently and always had an empathic response to whatever I said. I hope I did the same for her.

            Another time, when she was here as part of a conference, I boldly asked her if she had any plans for lunch, adding that I would really enjoy her joining me if she were free. I was truly amazed when she accepted the invitation; I thought surely all of her time had long since been fully scheduled. We went to the Sea Lion (now called Duke's), a marvelous fish restaurant in Malibu, where we sat overlooking the ocean and ate and talked and talked and talked. One of the questions I posed to von Franz was, "Do you agree with Jung that the soul is experienced as male for a woman and female for a man? Or do you think Irene de Castillejo is correct that the soul is female for both sexes?" She agreed with Jung, as I expected, and she had an explanation for de Castillejo's position (although she did not agree with it). But then she went on to add that Jung had told her that in the advanced stages of the individuation process, one must ultimately experience and have contact with the Self in its female as well as its male aspect. She told me that only recently had she herself discovered the female aspect of the Self. It was evident that she was very pleased by her discovery; as usual, she spoke with an intensity of passion and conviction so characteristic of her.

            We discussed the continued interest of the Swiss people in her lectures on fairy tales. She always had a large audience, she said. That seemed to surprise her. She already knew about my having instructed classes on fairy tales at U.C.L.A. and at the Jung Institute, so I took the opportunity to probe her about some questions that had been puzzling me. I asked her how she interpreted the pears in the story, "The Handless Maiden." She said that pears are the feminine counterpart of apples and that both fruit are vegetative representations of that which brings about consciousness. She reflected on the interesting similarity in shape of the pear and the uterus.

            As we were driving back to the conference after lunch, she revealed to me that whenever she was asked to lecture or participate in a conference, she consulted the I Ching, and it alone determined her acceptance or rejection of the invitation. That, plus the dedication she exhibited to other expressions of the collective unconscious -- dreams, myths, fairy tales, etc. -- was characteristic of her integrity in general. She was a lovely, admirable woman, and I shall miss her vibrant energy, her munificent soul, and her far-reaching contributions to consciousness.

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         * Originally written for and published in the "Bulletin" of the Analytical Psychology Club of Los Angeles.

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