Jung on Music Therapy

Below you will find a post recounting a rare encounter between Carl Jung and Music Therapy.

To experience and learn more about Music Therapy, you can attend a seminar sponsored by igap, and given by Summer Course speaker, Patricia Skar.  For details go here.  And for more extensive article by Patricia, follow this link.

For a week long Workshop of Active Imagination through music led by Alison Davies, come to the Champernowne Summer Course.

Carl Jung and Music Therapy


Margaret Tilly, a concert pianist of San Francisco, English by origin, became interested in experimentation with the therapeutic value of music when used specifically in certain cases. This interest grew out of her own experience with Jungian analysis, and Miss Tilly was urged by analysts to acquaint Jung with her work.

In 1956, while in Geneva to give a concert on radio, she decided to send Jung some papers that she had written. A reply came by return mail, from Jung's secretary, asking her to come to Kusnacht two days later.

Margaret Tilly: When I walked into his hall, Dr. Jung came with hands outstretched to welcome me, and I felt that here was one of the warmest and friendliest persons I had ever been with —so easy to talk to that one did not feel overawed.

We sat at a round table in the window of his study. My papers were lying in front of him and he seemed to be literally bursting with interest and curiosity. 

He said, "I have read and heard a great deal about music therapy, and it always seemed to me so sentimental and superficial that I was not interested. But these papers of yours are entirely different, and I simply cannot wait to hear what you do. I can't imagine what it is. You must please use your !language, not mine."

I didn't immediately understand what he meant by the last sentence, but said, "Before I talk, Dr. Jung, may I ask what your own relationship to music has been?"

And his reply was a surprise. "My mother was a fine singer, so was her sister, and my daughter is a fine pianist. I know the whole literature—I have heard everything and all the great performers, but I never listen to music any more. It exhausts and irritates me."

When I asked why, he replied, "Because music is dealing with such deep archetypal material, and those who play don't realize this.​​​​" 

And then I understood at last why the idea has grown up that Jung is not particularly sympathetic to music. He cares too much, not too little.

At this point he said, "With your permission I have asked Miss Bailey and my daughter to join us this afternoon, as they will be so interested in what you are going to tell us. Now let us have a cup of tea together."

And we proceeded into his large, dark, cozy living room, where he introduced me to his daughter and Miss Bailey,' who were sitting in front of a fire. On the far side of the room was a Bechstein grand with its top raised. 

We had a gay and delightful time around the fire, Dr. Jung full of fun and charm, and as I swallowed my last drop of tea, he said, "I can't wait another minute—let's begin, but you use your language."

I said, "Do you mean you want me to play?" and he said, "Yes. I want you to treat me exactly as though I were one of your patients. Now—what do you think I need?"

We both roared with laughter and I said, "You really are standing me up, aren't you?"

He said, "Yes, I am. Now, let's go to the piano. I am very slightly deaf, so may I sit close?"

And with that he sat down just behind me, so that I had to turn round a little to see him.

I began to play. When I turned round, he was obviously very moved, and said, "Go on—go on." And I played again.

This second time he was far more deeply moved, saying, "I don't know what is happening to me—what are you doing?"

And we started to talk. He fired question after question at me. "In such and such a case what would you try to accomplish—where would you expect to get—what would you do? Don't just tell me, show me—show me"; and gradually as we worked he said, "I begin to see what you are doing—show me more."

I told him many case histories, and we worked on for over two hours. He was very excited and as easy and naïve as a child to work with. Finally he burst out with:

"This opens up whole new avenues of research I'd never even dreamed of. Because of what you've shown me this afternoon—not just what you've said, but what I have actually felt and experienced—I feel that from now on music should be an essential part of every analysis. This reaches the deep archetypal material that we can only sometimes reach in our analytical work with patients. This is most remarkable."


At this point some evil genie made me look at my watch, and I said, "Dr. Jung, I have to go, or I miss my train back to Paris."

"Oh, you mustn't go," he said. "Can't you stay a few days an
d be with us? Can't you come back?" I most reluctantly took my leave. His daughter drove me to the train and I sat in a daze all the way to Paris.'

Footnote: Alan Watts, in his autobiography In My Own Way (New York, 1972), p. 394, refers briefly to Margaret Tilly's meeting with Jung and adds:

"Shortly afterwards, Jung's daughter said to Margaret, `Perhaps you don't realize that you did something very important for me and my father. I have always loved music, but he has never understood it, and this was a barrier between us. Your coming has changed all that, and I don't know how to thank you.' "
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