C. G. Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections as a Source for Doris Lessing’s Briefing for a Descent into Hell


  • Matthew Fike Winthrop University




Doris Lessing was conversant in Jungian psychology, and her novel Briefing for a Descent into Hell includes more Jungian elements than previous critics have identified. In particular, it is likely that she borrowed from Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections when crafting her protagonist Charles Watkins’s descent into madness and return to sanity. This essay argues that the autobiography’s chapter 6, “Confrontation with the Unconscious,” and chapter 10, “Visions”—Jung’s encounter with madness and his near-death experience—provided Lessing with not only a successful nekyia by which to evaluate Watkins’s less successful inner journey but also a series of images that she reworked in the novel. Considered in light of MDR, Briefing conveys a sense of lost potential: Watkins regains his memory but, unlike Jung, forgets his vision of the collective unconscious.