Translated for Marta S. Peréz
I started this writing after the trip to Zürich I made when I received the disturbing news concerning our dear friend José Zavala’s worsened state of health. Being aware these would be no doubt his last hours or days, I went there with Andrés, very hastily, in order to see him off. Our meeting has been to me a very deep and moving experience, full of wisdom. José proved to be a really humble, honest and authentic human being.
During my trip I remained thinking over the question I had made to the I Ching concerning the meaning his illness could have for me. The answer was hexagram No. 30, The Clinging, Fire. There it was said:
“To the superior man it makes no difference whether death comes early or late. He cultivates himself, awaits his allotted time, and in this way secures his fate.”
Having arrived at the hospital, his friend Annemarie told us he had spent a very bad night, and at 9.00 a.m. she thought he had passed away, but he slowly recovered. When we entered his room he stood up with difficulty, trying to step and afterwards in front of us, silently, he sat at the edge of the bed and started writing some lines in his notebook of active imagination. Then he showed us some of its pages, where he had translated some verses of Shakespeare’s “Henry V” to the náhuatl.
It was a wide, peaceful room full of light where he was in, and it had a very impressive view of the city, crowned by the Alps, at the University Hospital, the E.T.H., just where years before C. G. Jung had given his lessons on Psychology, but José let us know that there he felt imprisoned, so far away from his little apartment, at the Winterthurerstr. 651, which he so much missed then, where he had left all his works, his books and his remembrances, and where, as he told us then, he wished to return.
There, at the hospital, beside his notebook of active imagination, he also had the I Ching and Shakespeare’s plays, whose “Coriolanus” had been reading. He said in this drama lied in all its extent the mother complex. This was the play he had meant to see next summer, in London, with his daughter Agnes. He also had next to him “Hall Ar-rumuz”, the book Marie-Louise von Franz had written during her long-lasting illness, and which he then gave to me, drawing my attention to a page and telling me that one could find out there the key to the reconciliation between Christianity and Islam.
He showed himself interested in the activity of our group of Valencia, and asked us what were we dealing with, and felt glad when he was told we were again working on García Lorca’s poem: “A las cinco de la tarde”. After that it seemed to me a synchronicity the fact that during the last meeting of our group in Valencia, being José absent, Ana brought us the verse “un niño trae la blanca sábana” , and interpreted it as the prelude of a death, which in the poem had a negative connotation, but instead of that, José here in the hospital was compensating in a positive way that attitude that is reluctant to see and confront suffering consciously.
Several times these last four years he had told me his dreams and active imaginations had been announcing and bringing him images of death. So he had been getting ready for that from then on. Once he told me he had heard, in a dream, a woman’s voice asking him …“if he felt satisfied for what he had done during his life”, … and he answered, …“Yes!”. Another time the same voice asked him …“when he would like to die”… and then he replied: …“Whenever I’d seen all the plays by Shakespeare!”… And after having said this, he told me with a smile he was still short of two of them. Another time he also told me he was aware he would be dying soon, for he had recently felt very happy and had had very gratifying dreams, such as this one: “…her daughter was coming with her friend and had him eat many delicious things…”. But he also was aware it wouldn’t be easy, because once he had said to me that he would need a lot of energy to die, and it would be very difficult. I remember another occasion when he told me that Marie-Louise had advised him to imagine how it would be the other side, for, the moment arrived, this would be of great help, and he added that he could see there that he was meeting with her, and she brought him to Jung and then the three had a meeting with Lawrence Olivier, his favorite actor.
He said the Self brought the problems in order to be confronted, and I was sure José was now fully aware of his face to face with death. Later on he told me in two occasions hat some days ago, in spite of his enormous suffering, he did not want to be put a lethal injection, he said it would have been a pity to do it, for he did not want to go to the clouds, he did not want to escape, but wanted to stay on earth. So he proved to be consciously accepting his fear, his suffering and his pain, facing death with courage and dignity.
Later in the morning arrived to the room Dieter Baumann, Fiamma and an Italian couple who were acquaintances of them and who were very interested in old Mexico. Dieter had told them they had to go to Zürich in order to meet a true Mexican man. José was very kind to everyone, and we all had an agreeable talk.
Alone with him again, José asked me if I wanted to work, and with his emaciated look, lean, long hair, half-lying in the Mexican way, he looked like a true chaman, striving till the last moment to bring a message from the Self, and so in such difficult circumstances we had our last but one analysis meeting.
He asked me, such as he always used to, how I was getting on, how my children and my wife were, and if I had had any image… And I started telling him a dream I recently had with him and Marie-Louise…
While being interested in my wife and her illness, he also asked me to tell her how “chingado” he was, and the fear he had, if this could possibly help her, but also asked her not to forget she had to learn something from all that was happening to her.
He also spoke about inner truth, and told me it was the only truth he knew. But it was so difficult to enter the unconscious and see clearly what it expected from us. So I remembered his once and again reiterated questions in front of life tests: What is there behind an emotion? How does it affect me? How am I going to survive to it? What is its meaning for me? What does the Self expects from us?
When he told me he felt a lot of fear, panic in this situation, I asked him how it could be that he, who had been waiting this moment for such a long time, could have now these feelings? He replied me he couldn’t help it…People think that if they did Psychology they would not have to go through this...” He told me he did not want to escape neither anguish nor suffering… He had told me once and again Marie-Louise had taught him to jump into pain.
Once he told me one of his most beloved remembrances was the letter Marie-Louise von Franz had sent to him in 1970, a letter, he said, some day had to be published. There she asked him to enter analysis and work with her. Their relationship would become closer, and would last almost 30 years. He also kept from her a metal fruit-plate and an Etruscan owl she had left him when she died. He considered Marie-Louise had integrated Eros in her own life, she was pure experience, and he called her “The Millenium Woman”. He said: “If I have well understood Marie-Louise, psychology is to be felt in the body, it is 90 per cent feeling…” and he told us more than once a dream she had told him, “where there was a world catastrophe, and many people died, but not everybody, and her head was cut off…” Marie-Louise interpreted it as the “sacrificium intellectus”, and the fact was that she had to suffer what the others did not want to, for a chaman’s secret is to suffer consciously, and the true chaman, he said, is whoever puts each of us in contact with the own inner truth, that’s why he said she was wonderful, for in a single sentence she could give you the work of all your life!
“Remo Roth is right…” he said, “…Jung is a Dorneus, whom another Jung, not until, 200 years ahead, will come and will re-discover him…” and we, Jungians nowadays, we are like old Christians in the cathacombs. He said Jung was a man such as Marie-Louise thought him to be, a man like those who only appear after a period of 4000 years. But the fact that a man and a woman could appear at the same time, it was for José a most extraordinary synchronicity. Jung has left us a key, he said, but we have to make use of it, for he also had taught us everything he knew and everything he had learnt with Marie-Louise; now we had to take pains to introvert ourselves, trying to contact feeling, to develop symbolic thought and making creative work in order to be in contact with the Self, because from now on, he said, we had to follow the path alone, with only our inner Guide…
He had told us Marie-Louise’s illness was the price she had to pay for having entered so deeply into the unconscious, and I had him remember his having told us that Marie-Louise said to him she had acquired a lot of wisdom, however she would have preferred not to have passed through it, and she imagined it was “as if struggling with an Asiatic giant”. José agreed, though he added and emphasized the fact that she said that only after everything was over, after having confronted it… Then, I asked him if he could say something about his learning in his situation and with this suffering, and if he, such as Marie-Louise, could see the meaning and the reason why he had to suffer all this. José answered that in his case, among other things, it was because he had worked too much, excessively, having done it in a very intense and daring way. Daring, he told me, is the one who does everything with Mexican courage, with a bare chest, for Marie-Louise had taught him to struggle, he said, because he could never merely vegetate… And so his life had been; if he was wrong, he did not know, but he told me in spite of what he was passing through, he would have done the same, and in the same way, again. And in these moments he would go on struggling, so that he could go to Londres with Agnes to see “Coriolanus”.
Then José told me: “I think I have not understood, there are no symbols, no images coming up…I haven’t dreamt since a few days ago…But one must not wait, for it never comes!!!...” So, bewildered, I asked him: “And the transcendent function? And the “Deo conquedente?” and he replied: “We’ll see…we’ll see…”
Next morning, having arrived at the hospital, I found him a bit weaker, but in he same state of mind of the day before, and I asked him if he had had some image or symbol… He told me he had, but it was still missing one…
Very weak, but sitting up on the edge of the bed, holding up on a stick, staggering due to the effect of the medication, we returned to the work, and he again asked me: “Have you dreamt of anything?” And I began telling him a dream I had the night before .
We’d been talking for some time. I asked him if he had done everything in his creative work, but he replied that, after having finished the translation of “Number and Time”, which he had done for his love to Marie-Louise, he only had to write a few 50 lines about the subject of The Black Lady/Eros and Anthropos/trade”.
Later on I also asked him if he could amplify the symbols of a dream of his he had told me once about which I have been thinking since. When he had this dream, two years ago, he had said to me: “You see, I think I’m going to die soon… I had this dream:
…”I am with R. and see a young girl who is shaking a flower in her hand… waiting for me to say which sort of flower it was… and then a voice tells me… ‘The red jitomate and the palpitating Eros have to join together in Europe in the West’…”
The jitomate, he said, is what is about to explode, to burst, and a Mexican man told him once, stretching his fingers, he must not say tomate, but jitomate, for it is the “navel” containing it, holding it fast. He also told me I could find a parallel for this in the I Ching Hexagram: “Abundance”, No. 55.
“Red is what has happened to me, and what has happened to Marie-Louise, and to your wife; in Mexico we say “colorado”. Marie-Louise told me once I had dreamt of something ‘colorado’ about Christianity, that it was to see the good side of Christianity. To my mind you are unfair with Christianity here in Europe”. I replied, “But if you had always put it green in Mexico!” “Yes, he said, it was somewhat different, but you mustn’t say it’s green because I’m saying it, but because you have yourself thought on it!”
I thanked him for having taught me to sigh, to pant, as he used to say, and he replied that he “did not deserve my thankfulness, for it was the body, wisdom body, absolute, perennial wisdom of the unconscious, such as Jung called it. I went with all of you all these years in order to teach you how to contact that wisdom, so what you have payed me out is well payed…” He always had very much emphasized us the danger of remaining only on the intellectual and abstract side, and not to include feeling dimension. Once he told me Marie-Louise had also taught him to pant. Then I remembered one of my first dreams, which has most impressed me. “I am into a bungalow in the mountains with Marie-Louise, lying beside her, and she tells me how Jung has taught her to do something with the belly, with the body, and suddenly I am caught by a crisis of asphyxiation, and then she vigorously takes my head and shakes it hard as if helping me to deliver from something, so that I could learn what Jung has taught her…”
As he looked already very tired, and tottering, I asked him if he wanted me to lie him on bed, but he told me not, for he was fear of lying. So I sat down beside him and, leaning on me he remained for a while listening to the beat of my heart and told me: “Let’s go…! Let’s go…!” “Where…?”, I asked him. “Nowhere. Call Agnes!” and after some minutes of silence he exclaimed: “A chess…! A chess...!” Then, after a few moments, he draw with his finger a “triangle”, while making an effort to say with difficulty the word “Twenty”. Afterwards, feeling very tired, he fell asleep.
A long time ago José had commended me that, arriving this moment, he did not want anything done for his death, no requiem masses, no funerals, no obituary notes. He only wanted to be incinerated and his ashes be taken to Mexico, beside the Pyramids there. He also commended me that together with his daughter Agnes, we would take charge of his works, more than 20 editions in 4 languages, and also we would send to Berlin his works about Mexico and very especially he asked us to take care of his “Diccionario de Nahuatl”, which contains more than one hundred thousands words in five languages, making a sum total of 24 volumes, about which Dieter Baumann said it was a unique work that would last for centuries. José told me his work was not recognized, but it was by Marie-Louise, who said to him once that he couldn’t imagine the importance of his works, especially “Number and Eros”. He also told me she was once asked information about him by a Swiss Department in order to give him his nationality, and they wanted to know if she thought he would succeed in his searches, to what she replied that “…they were so intelligent that only after 100 years they would be recognized…”
Next day, when I phoned him from Spain, it was the last time we talked. I found him with more difficulty to articulate words. I asked him how he felt and he answered with his usual sense of humor: “…Más puesto que un calcetín…” [I am ready]. Such as some days ago, in spite of his difficult situation, he had been always joking with us.
After four days, the mysterious “fenestra aeternitatis” would open for him, and he would leave us for ever, but meanwhile his most beloved would gather around him, those he had so much loved and also for whom he had so much suffered.
It’s without question for me that José Zavala has been an honest, upright and authentic human being, and thanks to his friendship, his teachings and his example my faith in life and its mystery has asserted itself. I also could see those who have known him or have worked with him, expressing their deep affection, respect and consideration for such a relevant and human personality of his, and for his humble sharing his life with us. Most certainly he only too well deserves the warrior’s rest, and such as in his most favorite verses of “Henry V”: “Oh, for a Muse of fire, that would ascend / [might take him with her to] /The brightest heaven of invention!”
Valencia, 7 at 13 of May, 2006