Psychoanalysts study dreams for the clues which they give to the workings of the subconscious mind. They see dreams as being full of symbols which must be correctly interpreted if the meanings of the dreams are to be made clear. Marie-Louise von Franz belongs to the Jungian school of analysis, which stresses the universality of dream imagery. Her aim in this book is to explore the response of the subconscious to the impending death of the subject.
She discusses the death dreams of some of her patients, but only when death has actually occurred soon after such dreams have been included in this study. The reason for this restriction is not made clear - after all, everyone dies eventually. Traditional beliefs about life after death and the imagery associated with such beliefs and with burial customs are described and discussed in great detail, There is considerable emphasis on the concept of death as the passing from earthly life to a more enhanced state of being, which the author sums up as follows: “All the dreams of people who are facing death indicate that the unconscious, that is our instinct world, prepares consciousness not for a definite end but for a profound transformation and for a kind of continuation of the life process which, however, is unimaginable to everyday consciousness.'
This is a subject on which it is very difficult to write sensibly, but the author has achieved a readable and unsensational style. I suspect though that this book will not find favour with those who are unsympathetic to Jung's ideas.
- John Harney