In July 1959, Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh paid a visit to the aged Carl Jung in his home in Bollingen, Switzerland. Lindbergh and Jung talked about—what else?—UFOs.
This I learn from A. Scott Berg’s 1998 biography of Lindbergh, which my old friend in UFOlogy Jerry Clark has called to my attention. “ ‘I had expected a fascinating discussion about psychological aspects of the numerous and recurring flying-saucer reports,’ Lindbergh later recorded. But he found, to his astonishment, that Jung believed all the reports and was no more interested in the psychology of the phenomenon than he was in learning any facts about it” (Berg, pp. 511-512). Jung turned out to be a committed UFO “believer,” his mind closed to any doubts.
This story, which seems to rest on Lindbergh’s authority, doesn’t strike me as especially plausible. Only the year before, Jung had published his classic Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies, in which he’d dwelt upon the psychology of UFOs, remaining judiciously perplexed by the occasional evidence that something more than psychology might be involved. Had the great psychologist shifted his interest so entirely? I don’t doubt the two men did talk about UFOs. But what really did they say? And why?
I suspect that the figure of Donald Keyhoe, who comes up only parenthetically in Berg’s account, originally had more importance in their conversation. Keyhoe, who’d made his literary debut with a mostly forgotten memoir called Flying With Lindbergh (1928), became in the 1950s one of the country’s most visible UFOlogists, publishing a string of books with titles like The Flying Saucer Conspiracy, which Jung (we know from his flying saucer book) took absolutely seriously. Did Lindbergh share nothing about his former aide, beyond the rumor that Keyhoe had recently “experienced several nervous breakdowns”? To which Jung supposedly replied, “I dare say he has.”
Whatever that may mean.
The UFO/Jung story was what led me to take Berg’s biography out of our local library. But I soon found myself caught up in other sections of the book—not, I’ll admit, the whole 628 pages. Lindbergh was a fascinating, deeply disturbing person. A true American hero, and not just in the pioneering aviation feats that made him one of the most famous men in the world; a daredevil warrior of humane sympathies and real nobility of character, faithful always to his duty as he saw it. Yet also an anti-Semite, though not a very vicious one, whose stand against America’s entry into World War II was at least partly conditioned by a gushing admiration (shared with his wife) of Hitler and Nazi Germany.
His Jewish contemporaries never forgave him. Berg quotes several anecdotes of their vindictiveness that make unpleasant reading, understandable as their sentiments are. I remember, as a teenager in the 1960s, reading excerpts from Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s books in our highschool textbooks and feeling vaguely angry, as if this was a disgusting, indecent person packaged for our admiration. Lindbergh was not alone, before Pearl Harbor, in his isolationist stance. There was plenty of reason for a thinking person to oppose this country’s getting entangled in one more European bloodbath, though I shudder to think what the world would look like today if the isolationists had won out. Yet only Lindbergh became the target of such visceral rage. Maybe because he was such a hero, such an admirable human being in so many ways; it was unbearable to hear him saying, you don’t count, it’s a matter of no importance whether you live or die.
Lindbergh always denied having hostile feelings toward Jews, even while he was busy deleting anti-Semitic passages from his diaries in the course of preparing them for publication. It’s hard not to believe he was sincere. “Both races, I admire,” he said of the British and the Jews in the famous speech in which he blamed them for dragging America into war. “A few Jews add strength and character to a country,” he wrote in his diary. But, in places like New York, we’ve already got too many. (Translation: Jews fleeing the Nazi horror had better go somewhere else.) Sincere as pie—but unconscious. And perhaps it’s this unconsciousness that’s so infuriating.
Did Lindbergh ever read Jung’s UFO book? If so, he would have learned from Jung—whose own activities vis-à-vis the Third Reich were not always the most exemplary—that “unconsciousness is not only no excuse [for wrongdoing] but is actually one of the most heinous sins” (Flying Saucers, New American Library paperback edition, p. 60). I don’t pretend to know what the aviator and the psychologist were really arguing about that day at Bollingen. Lindbergh’s version doesn’t make sense to me; I can’t supply a better one. But is it conceivable that the moral imperative to know one’s unconscious, to let it emerge into consciousness, was part of the subtext? And that, like so much else in our psychic life, it took the form of UFOs?