Sum it up for me

The Visions of Nicholas of Flüe


Source: “Die Visionen des Niklaus von Flüe kommentiert von Marie-Louise von Franz” by Guido Ferrari.

Table of Contents


This is a transcript of Guido Ferrari’s documentary film “The Visions of Nicholas of Flüe – commented by Marie-Louise von Franz”.

It is one of the few good examples of how analytical psychology (aka Jungian psychology) looks like in practice when applied to an individual person. It gives you sufficient biographical information to provide a context to the interpretation of Nicholas’ dreams and visions.



Mount Pilatus, Central Switzerland, Obwalden, the Melch-Valley and Flüeli-Ranft, since the 15th century inseparably linked to Nicholas of Flüe. His hermitage in Ranft still stands, a place of peace, a place of strength. Above the bottom of the valley is the village of Flüeli where Nicholas was born and lived with his family. He lived in this house with his wife, Dorothea, and their 10 children until the age of 50.

After that, the decision, to leave all this behind, the resolution to give room to his most inherent calling, the search for himself, the search for God. Nicholas withdrew into solitude, lived off herbs and the water of the Melchaa for 20 years, did miracles, and it is said, that in 1481 he saved the unity of the young Swiss Confederation.

But who was Nicholas of Flüe really? What kind of inner development did he went through during his lifetime? The person of Nicholas has been interpreted very diversely over the centuries. This is shown by the varieties of faces he’s been portrayed with by painters and sculptors. In this film we are also looking for the face of Brother Klaus by following his visions.

The visions and sightings that Nicholas had during his life are collected in contemporary documents. He, who could neither read, nor write, recounted them to his confessor, to his spiritual friends, and to pilgrims, who then put them on paper. For example, in this book from the parish church of Sachseln, the year 1488 proves that the visions were written down during the saint’s lifetime.

The language of visions is reminiscent of the language of dreams. Marie-Louise von Franz, one of the most famous Jungian psychoanalysts, will help us to find the common thread that runs through the visions of Nicholas of Flüe.

Marie-Louise von Franz lives near Zurich. She is the author of various studies that are known all over the world. In this film, her commentaries will allow us to understand Brother Klaus’ inner development step by step.

Marie-Louise von Franz

That’s a bit of a big word. I would say they allow us to see certain correlations in his development. I wouldn’t presume to say I understand everything. But you see, if you arrange the visions chronologically, then you’ll have a certain continuity, like a gradual unfolding of the personality, a gradual coming to consciousness.

Guido Ferrari

What is the relationship between psychoanalysis and religion? Nicholas was a very religious person.

Marie-Louise von Franz

Yes, religion is experienced through the soul, and psychoanalysis is the science of the soul. So, of course, psychoanalysis and religion have to meet, except that theology based on certain revealed truths, while psychology proceeds scientifically, simply observes scientifically.

Guido Ferrari

Religion has God at its center. Is this term also a term of psychoanalysis?

Marie-Louise von Franz

Yes it is, but we simply limit it to what we can observe, namely, the God-Image in the soul of man.

  • We can observe that a person has a conscious God-Image, which is mostly taught to him by religious education and literature.
  • And besides this, however, another God-Image may also appear in his dreams, a spontaneous manifestation of the God-Image.

So that, especially in the case of Nicholas, for example, there are two God-Images, one that he cultivates in his consciousness and one that has revealed itself to him from the depths of his Unconscious. And then there is also the theological God-Image, about which we do not presume to discuss anything.

Guido Ferrari

But it is the case that in the depths of the human soul there is something true, that is, there is a basic wisdom that psychoanalysis tries to study.

Marie-Louise von Franz

Yes, at least the analytical psychology according to Jung is convinced, that in the depths of his soul, man is a religious being, and that religious images are revealed, which must be taken seriously as religious images and not to be devalued as something else by claiming that they represent repressed sexuality, or power complex, or something, but to treat them as genuinely religious.

In the depths of the soul there is, what the ancient mystics called the soul spark, a kinship of the soul with the divine. At least that’s our belief.

The prenatal vision


Nicholas was born in 1417 into a pious peasant family in Central Switzerland. The first visions mentioned in the manuscripts even date back to the time before his birth, when Nicholas was still in his mother’s womb.

He told, that at the time he saw a star rising, whose rays illuminated the entire Earth. Then he saw a rock, whose firmness and resistance he felt. Finally, he beheld the Holy Oil. Shortly thereafter, he was born. And then Klaus also remembered his baptism, the way down to Kerns, the priest and the godparents and an old man in the church, whom he never saw again later in life.

Marie-Louise von Franz

The old man, as it were, is the Lord God who walks on earth, who has come to earth. So this would mean that God was present at the baptism in the disguise of the old man. From an analytical and psychological point of view, he would be the archetype of the old sage, the perfect personality, or even the divine inner personality in the depth of the soul, or the divine destiny of a human being.

That lies already in the star. We say you were born under a good or bad star. The star has always had the meaning of the unique personality. For example, when an emperor died, the ancient Romans searched the sky to see if a new star appeared, and the ancient Egyptians wrote the sign of Ba, which is the immortal part of the human soul, with a star.

The rock is of course contained in the name of Nicholas of Flüe, because “of Flüe” means “of Rock”. The stone or the rock is not only a symbol of Nicholas himself, but it’s also a symbol of the fixed personality, the eternal personality, the immortal personality. That is why tombstones are placed on the graves. Long ago, since pre-Greek times, it has been a symbol of eternal continuity, that which continues beyond death.

Guido Ferrari

You use elements from different cultures in your interpretations, how is that to be understood?

Marie-Louise von Franz

In our view, there are certain basic mental structures, which Jung called archetypes, which can be found in all human beings, and these produce similar mythological images, not quite the same, but similar.

This means that, for example, if you compare the myths or the fairy tales of all peoples, certain basic elements are the same everywhere.

And if you also do comparative religious history, certain basic elements reappear. For example, the element of the crucified god was found by the Spanish conquistadores also in the Aztec and Maya cultures, and they could not explain, how this can be possible.

Guido Ferrari

These visions of Nicholas are prenatal visions, how is this to be understood at all?

Marie-Louise von Franz

This is considered the first miracle, but we don’t know what happens to a child in the uterus. Nowadays as the heartbeat and the brain waves of fetuses can be monitored medically, we know, that children are already dreaming in the womb, and there are already brain activities. It is quite possible that certain psychic experiences can already occur.

But it is also a mythological motif that important personalities would have known who they were or what they were born to do even before their birth. For example, there are various traditions of North American medicine men who say that one must be destined to be a medicine man already in the womb, and if you haven’t had visions in your mother’s womb, then you’re not a medicine man. Sor it’s actually a general motive.

The tower vision


At the age of 16, Nicholas had a vision again. He saw a tall tower, mighty and impressive, on the very spot where his hermitage was later built. Nicholas took this vision as the first call of his inner voice.

Marie-Louise von Franz

The tower is, of course, actually a biblical motif, and also in the Bible it signifies devotion to the inner life.

In military terms, the tower is a defensive instrument. You withdraw into yourself. It’s a defensive tool, and that’s why it has the meaning of retreat, turning away from the world, turning inwards, concentrating inwards.

Although he lived outwardly for many years, this is already the first stage of, as we would say today, his introverted orientation. He was very introverted also according to the biographical records, he played and talked little with other children, isolated himself a lot, and prayed alone, and already started fasting. So he was already very, what you might say, religiously introverted as a boy.

And the tower fits in with this as an image, as a target image that confirms that he was in harmony with his inner nature. You can see, for example, that he wasn’t neurotic. He was not neurotically ill. Although, perhaps, today’s school psychologists would say that he was neurotic because he had not participated socially like the others. But today everything is schematized. On the contrary, the tower vision shows that he was in tune with himself, with his withdrawn temperament. That was just his nature.

Probably the tower vision wanted to confirm him in this. It’s okay for you to stand alone.

The vision of the nobleman


Nicholas followed his family’s tradition. He was a farmer and cattle breeder. He made a living by selling the cattle and cultivating his land. In the autumn, 1444, when Nicholas was 27 years old, he married the 14-year-old Dorothea Wies. Back then, young women at that age were marriageable. Nicholas and Dorothea had 10 children together.

Nicholas of Flüe also had the usual military career. Fußknecht, Rottmeister, Zugführer, Soldat, Pfähnrich Hauptmann, one would say today.

[NOTE: These are medieval military ranks in the German-speaking regions of Europe. I don’t know what would be the proper English equivalents of these ranks.]

So he knew cruelty and violence, blood and carnage.

He also took on political tasks in his early years. “He was powerful in court and counsel.” But he also denounced venal judges. “He saw sulphuric flames flickering from their lying mouths.”

Around the year 1460, when Nicholas was 43, a very difficult time began for him. Anxiety, depression. At that time, he publicly renounced his political offices. He felt tormented. Once he even thought that Evil had pushed him down from the path, so that he fell into a thorn bush. More and more often he withdrew, fled the community, began to fast and pray.

One day he had a vision which confused him greatly. A nobleman appeared to him. Nicholas thought the Evil was hiding behind it. This nobleman told him that he should give up the search and lead a life just as all the other people do.

Marie-Louise von Franz

During this time of depression, what he particularly suffered from was, that he was irritated by his family. The family was getting on his nerves. If you see the cramped house and imagine, that therein live husband and wife and 10 children, you can imagine that.

But it took on unusual proportions. And behind that was probably the need to withdraw, but he didn’t realize it. Around this time he had a vision, that a nobleman came to him. He later interpreted the nobleman as the Devil, but that’s not necessary correct.

A nobleman come to him, well dressed and well adorned and he told him that he should desist from his pious intent, and he should do as all the other people do.

[NOTE: At the end of this sentence she quotes this again in Swiss-German: “Tun wie andere Lüüt” – “do like other people”. ]

Because he wanted to dissuade him from his pious plan, he concluded that it must be the Devil.

But if you look at it psychologically, it’s not so sure. We always take an image for what it is, and the image tells, that the nobleman in him tells him, that he should do like all the other people, and not behave so extraordinary, he shouldn’t fast and live so piously. The nobleman, in our view, would mean his own noble nature, and he would advise him to do like other people, i.e. not to distinguish himself, not to stand out much, just like other people.

This would show that he had a great dichotomy within him, namely, that he consciously wanted to be extraordinary, that he wanted to be extraordinarily pious, and that he didn’t really need that, because he was extraordinarily pious. He didn’t have to make any effort at all.

But he didn’t understand that, and that’s why he assumed that this nobleman was the Devil. In Uri, it is still considered a so-called sacrilege not to do like other people. You could say he could have relied on it.

[NOTE: Uri is a canton in Switzerland.]

It is sometimes the case, that if someone has an important calling but it has not yet been fulfilled, then they are tempted to make themselves important. This is wrong, because his importance comes to the fore on its own, which he can only wait for.

The vision of God’s command


One day, while Nicholas was working in the fields, God spoke to him from a cloud. Do as I tell you. Nicholas was very dismayed by this call. Am I not doing to you what God wants? What am I doing wrong? Or do I not understand what He wants?

Marie-Louise von Franz

I believe that this interpretation is correct because a next vision comes that shows that God is displeased with him, a cloud comes, and out of the cloud God tells him that he is a foolish man and should surrender to God’s will.

At the same time, Nicholas had prayed that God would show him His will. So we have a contradiction there. Nicholas says, God, I want to do what you want, and God says, Lord God, do what I want.

If you take it purely like this, take it psychologically naïve, then it would mean: Nicholas has an idea of the will of God that does not coincide with the will of God, of God in the Unconscious. What the God-Image or the God in his soul wants is something different from what he imagines in his Consciousness.

And I think that explains his depression. He is not in harmony with his inner nature, and he is completely innocent. It’s not a neurosis or something like that, but it can happen to anyone, that the inner, religious nature, the soul spark, the mystics would say, wants something with you and you don’t understand it. You want to follow, but you don’t know what you should do. So he got into an ever greater contradiction with himself.

And that’s what causes his depression.

The vision of the horse and the lily


Days later, as Nicholas continued to think in the meadow in the field, he saw a lily. It seemed to him as if it was growing out of his mouth, up into the sky. Then his eyes fell on a wonderful steed. Immediately the lily bent down to the ground and was eaten by the horse. Nicholas deduced from the image, that through his clinging to material things, he obstructed his sense for the higher values.

Marie-Louise von Franz

Also in this case, de didn’t necessarily guess correctly what it means.

He said that if one rejoices in worldly goods, the horse is of course a worldly good for the farmer, then the heavenly gifts, i.e. the lily, are eaten. What he overlooks, or what we would say psychologically, is a bit different, because the lily has leaned towards the horse of its own accord. He didn’t do anything except look at the horse benevolently, but that’s pretty innocent. The lily wanted to go to the horse.

In the Middle Ages, the lily was also used in art, and also in heraldic art, was a symbol of the anima candida, of spiritual innocence, of the pure soul. That is why it is also a symbol of Mary. It was also thought that lilies grow on the graves of the dead, and sometimes lilies growing out of the mouths of the deceased were even discovered. So it is also the eternal soul that grows out of the mortal body.

So you could say that at first his soul strives towards heaven normally, like that of a normal Christian saint, but then his soul suddenly disappeared into the horse. We would, from a psychological point of view, if we were to analyze Brother Klaus in a modern way, we would tell him, now your soul is in the horse, now you have to see what happens. Now your soul wants to do something.

The horse, however, signifies animal activity. Among other things, the horse is among the medicine men and the shamans is a symbol for the spirit ride, for setting oneself in motion, for the great journey. At that time, the horse replaced what the automobile is for today. Today, a saint would dream that his soul disappears in an automobile. Then you would say, so now you have to go on the ride. Now comes the ride.

Horses positively signify the animalistic instinct nature. Negatively, however, they often mean the panic animal, because the horses tend to panic and are dangerous when they panic.

And sure enough, in a kind of panic or sudden, wild decision, he ran away, from home. He left home. You can see why that was, it had to happen after his soul had disappeared into the horse. That foreshadowed what would happen afterwards.

The vision of the bright light from Heaven


On 16 October 1467, the day of Saint Gall, Nicholas left the family house and farm in a pilgrim’s cloak. Barefoot, he set off for the north. Presumably he wanted to join the Friends of God in Alsace. He wanted to do the same as these forest brothers.

On the 4th evening, at the edge of a forest above Liestal, the dream vision came. The whole valley is red, everything in front of him is in flames. Nicholas woke up screaming, racing around aimlessly. A farmer who heard him calmed him down. Then, when Nicholas had regained his composure, he turned back and began his way back to his usual circle of life. But the horror of having to turn back remained. Nicholas first retreated into the forest, but there a very bright light struck him and tore open his belly.

Marie-Louise von Franz

He then spent the night under a hedge, near a fence and a hedge. And then he suddenly had the vision that a bright light came from heaven and opened his belly. And that caused him terrible, enormous pain. And that’s the moment, they say later, from which he began to fast absolutely. Until then, he had eaten very little, but had eaten a little food. And from that moment the beam of light touched his belly, he didn’t eat anymore. So this was only handed down later.

Red is the color of emotion. It can also mean anger, for example, we say, I saw red and killed the other person, or something. To see red means to fall into a mad rage. Also, if you see the landscape in red, see red in the sky, and so on, means in mythology a portent of war. Bloodshed, it is the color of bloodshed, war, destruction. It is a dangerous color.

Sometimes red can also mean life, lifeblood, in the blood in the sense of lifeblood and invigoration.

But here we have to take the frightening side of red, because it has had a terrifying effect. It must have been an unpleasant red he saw. So not the color of life, but war, blood, anger, fire or something like that.

This can best be interpreted as the fact that the Unconscious wanted to block the way abroad where he wanted to go and told him, so far and no further, it’s dangerous. It is a so-called projection of a dangerous state outwards, which would prophesy dangers.

We will see later that Brother Klaus had a vision of a berserker. Berserkerism has to do with Wotanism and with the fury of war and so on. There you can see that he must have had a tremendously wild temperament. No man becomes as important as he has become in history without having a tremendous temperament and a tremendous energy potential in him. He was outstanding in every respect and thus, also as a typical Central-Swiss, he was wild. If he hadn’t become a saint, he probably would have become a wild mercenary.

[NOTE: I translated the term “Reisläufer” as mercenary.]

The same can be said of most saints. A personality as extreme as a saint always has the possibilities of the other side within him.

Once, when he was a judge, he saw fire burst out of the mouth of a criminal. That was also a kind of vision. This fire can be related to himself. He felt the fiery temperament and the war mood, the war fury in himself and the other people.

Now we can better understand his depression and his irritation with his family. It was a kind of anger and despair, namely, anger and despair about the world, because the world outside has this red color and it would mean … well, this is actually the main problem. If someone tries to be pious, he runs the risk of being indignant about other people and about the bad things in the world, and of consuming himself in a sterile and, one can safely say, stupid rage. That is not the essence of the saint, that he simply rages and rails against the sins of the world. Some have done so, and they have not become saints.

So the vision tells him that where you want to go, abroad, out into the world, there is danger, go back. And then it happens to him in the night that the beam of light comes from above. Of course, you immediately think back to the star he saw before he was born. It’s like the star is touching him now. If we believe that the star signifies the immortal, greater personality within him, precisely because it is his star, then it would mean that now his star reaches him, now his destiny reaches him. The greater destiny for which he was born, and which he saw in the star up in the sky, or the one which he projected into the sky, touches him now.

The abdomen is the seat of emotions, so when we have strong emotions, we get stomach ache or indigestion. And that would mean that now his vocation touches him emotionally, now it is not theoretical in his head, but now it touches him, as if he now knew, now I know what I have to do. I have to go back and fulfill my own destiny at home by going all the way within.

The vision of the four lights


On the way back, Nicholas came to his farm in Flüeli, but did not dare to enter the house. Distraught, humiliated, he spent a few hours with the animals in the barn. Then on, up into the upper Melchtal, to the Kliesterlialp. Hunters discovered the completely distraught man there on the Alp, they brought the news of the returnee to the village and to Saxony.

Nicholas had already been up there on the Kliesterlialp as a herdsman’s boy. So he knew very well that this unprotected location was not a place to stay, especially not for the coming winter. Nicholas was looking for a solution.

Marie-Louise von Franz

And then he had another vision. He saw four clear lights descending on a certain place in the Ranft below, where the Melchaa flows in the deep valleys. And that’s when he knew, that’s where I have to build my forest brother hermitage.

And with that, he also reached the right solution for the family, because they were able to visit him down there every Sunday. He didn’t just break up with the family like he would have done if he had gone abroad. Of course, it was much more difficult to build up one’s pious life on the spot. This is obviously what his inner destiny or God wanted, that he does it on the spot and does not start a second life abroad somewhere away.

In the Renaissance there were a lot of such itinerant monks who went around begging and preaching, and there were also remarkable personalities among them, but that was not his destiny. He was a rooted Swiss and a rooted farmer, and as the farmer told him, the Confederates were not popular abroad. That was a clear advice to stay at home.

[NOTE: “Confederates” in this context simply means “Swiss”.]


From then on, at the end of 1467, Nicholas lived as a hermit in Ranft. First in the makeshift hut down by the stream, then for 19 years in the wooden hut known as his hermitage. By the way, the people of Flüeli helped him with the construction.

Marie-Louise von Franz

He is the model of how one can still solve the inner conflicts alone, and that is why he is such an important psychotherapist and saint for me, namely, that one has to take the bull by the horns and confront the conflict or the difficulty head on, instead of striving to get away from it.

His friends and relatives, nephews and his eldest son understood this too. They found him quite distraught and starved and helped him to build the hermitage. They have understood, that their father must now simply keep to himself. This also shows a certain greatness of soul from his family, and also shows how popular he was that they didn’t blame him.

So, if someone today wanted to claim that he was crazy, then I would say that proves that he wasn’t, because then he would have been unpopular with his family long ago. The fact that it was possible for those around him to understand him and even help him out of love shows that he was not a madman. That would never have happened with a madman.

The vision of the holy family


Nicholas was looking for answers to his questions, the solution, the deliverance from his worries. In his dejection, he sought advice from his confessor. He recommended that he should immerse himself in the Passion of Christ. Nicholas gave thanks for the grace that he found strength and enlivening in the contemplation of the sufferings of Jesus.

When his reason began to fall asleep, but he thought he was still awake, it seemed to him that from a bright circle came one in a white robe, like a priest in an alb, and that one called to him in a firm voice. Come and see the Father and see what He is doing. He was a handsome, stately man. He thanked Nicholas from the bottom of his heart for taking care of his son so well. Nicholas was frightened by this. I don’t know that I’ve ever done your son any service.

Then a beautiful woman came out of the depths of the bright room. She, too, thanked him for taking such care of her son.

And the son also bowed down to Nicholas in great love, and he noticed, and was very surprised by this, that he was wearing the same robe as the son.

Marie-Louise von Franz

I believe this vision arose around this time of early retreat because of the four lights that illuminated the Ranft.

Four always means the becoming aware of the inner wholeness, or innerly becoming whole, to use a modern expression from Jung, the individuation. Four means complete, as the four lights indicate. Now comes a path to inner completeness. Now the goal is inner wholeness or inner completion. And that’s why I believe that this vision also came around this time.

He also suffered terribly, and if we analyze this vision of the fourness more closely, it becomes clear that it actually wants to tell him what he suffered for. First, someone calls out to him in a clear, strong voice, and that is obviously the Paraclete or Holy Spirit. He should look at what God is doing, and then the Mother of God comes up to him and thanks him for what he has done for her Son. And then he sees Christ in a white robe with red spots, sprinkled like bloodstains. And he, too, thanks him for what he has done for him, and Brother Klaus always reacts in great humility and says, I have done nothing for you.

And then he sees that he’s sitting next to Christ, and he’s wearing the same robe that Christ is, sprinkled with red and white. This vision, I believe, compensates for Brother Klaus’ feeling of insecurity and inferiority. He feels completely insignificant. He also always says during the vision, I didn’t do anything, and so on.

The vision tells him, in a way, that this overwhelming suffering, he must have suffered terribly from this depression, has a deeper meaning, that it is for God’s sake. This also shows that if a person has to suffer psychologically, innocently, enormously, that he is actually doing something for God.

Although if he can only understand it, but he can’t feel it, then it’s of no use to him. It is of no use to him if he is told. But if he can feel it himself, then a part of the burden of suffering is taken off his shoulders, then the suffering has a meaning. Suffering that has meaning is more bearable than senseless suffering. The vision wants to tell him that this suffering is actually for the sake of the greater man, the inner Christ.

This is one of the mistakes of the Western world, that we project religion too much on the outside. Christ is somewhere up in heaven. God the Father, God the Mother and Christ sit in heaven above and we are below the ants that have nothing to do with them. We project the divine too far away into the cosmos or into heaven or wherever and don’t see that it’s in ourselves, in our own soul, that these are also images in our own soul.

In mysticism, the figure of Christ would be called the inner Christ, for whose sake he suffers. In this way he is equaled to Christ. He then wears the same dress. That would mean your suffering, your bloodstains. The bloodstains point to suffering, to the Passion. Your Passion is the Passion of Christ and by suffering the Passion of Christ, you are equaled to Christ, and you’re doing something for God.

Guido Ferrari

Why is the number 4 a symbol of wholeness and not the number 3, for example?

Marie-Louise von Franz

You can’t explain it, it’s just a fact. You see, Jung saw this in modern patients, that when a wholeness symbol appears, statistically, let’s say, it’s about 80% fourness and only 20% other numbers, trinities, or fivenesses, or hexagons, and so forth. If you look at Comparative Religious History, then you’ll see the cosmic images, or in the East, the mandalas, or the Tibetan mandalas, the Indian mandalas, the Chinese wholeness or cosmos symbols are all quaternary. The sand drawings of the Navajo Indians are also fournesses. So, in purely statistical terms, when you say that when man wants to represent the world as a whole, or the cosmos as a whole, or the Godhead as a whole, he always lapses into the motif of the fourness.

If it is a trinity, as it is in our Christianity, but not in Catholicism anymore, because the Virgin Mary has been taken up into heaven, she is not equivalent, she is not a divinity, but she is almost divine. So there is actually a fourness in such a suggestive way.

In many medieval pictures of the coronation of Mary, they clearly have a representation of a heavenly four, as in the vision of Brother Klaus. This shows that if you have studied numbers symbolically, wholeness symbols that point to a triad have a masculine dynamic character, so they are dynamic images of wholeness, while the fourness is a static resting, it is as it were the result, the calming down.

The vision of the three noblemen


Ever since Nicholas had retired to the Ranft, he had been fasting. He drank only water from the Melchaa and ate nothing, what a miraculous sign. But the people in the village and also the representatives of the church wanted to know exactly if he really wasn’t eating. They controlled Brother Klaus. But nothing was found. A fraud could not be detected.

Marie-Louise von Franz

It’s not entirely certain, because if you asked him, he just said, God knows. He didn’t say I didn’t eat or drink anything. But it looks like he didn’t eat anything or almost nothing. That might be possible. That would be a miracle from a psychological point of view, but a miracle that lies within the bounds of the extraordinary but possible. Namely, we would explain it to ourselves that he could somehow draw substance from the environment through the ionization of the surrounding air. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s a miracle. It is possible.


During his prayer, Nicholas had another vision. Three noblemen appeared to him and ordered him to submit to them. Only in this way can he attain eternal life. They gave him the cross, which he carried with him until his death. They promised him a bear’s paw and the banner of the victor. Nicholas replied that I submit myself only to God alone. After all, he suspected the evil behind the three noblemen.

Marie-Louise von Franz

Here we have something similar to the cloud vision, wherein Brother Klaus says that he wants to surrender to God, and God scolds him regardless, ordering him to surrender, as if Nicholas and God had vastly different conceptions about what surrendering to God means. Here it’s the other way around. The three visitors tell him to surrender. And Brother Klaus doesn’t want to do that and says, I just want to surrender to God. So he again has the feeling that these three nobles could be of diabolical nature, just as he had previously interpreted the nobleman as the devil.

From a modern viewpoint, and also if we think about the era in which Brother Klaus lived, this uncertainty can be better understood, namely, the three visitors, the three noblemen point to the Godhead but, in a pagan guise.

Brother Klaus wasn’t born in the renaissance for nothing. This is the era in which the antique gods in the Mediterranean area and northwards in the Alps Wotan, the old Wotan have come back to life. North of the Alps we have the novel Simplicius Simplicissimus which stirs up again the whole problem of Wotan. Up to the present day, where we have been confronted with neo-paganism, it all began in the Renaissance.

That’s why Brother Klaus is understandably in doubt. Is it God or is it the Devil? I would say, it’s neither God, nor the Devil. It is a Wotanic God-Image. It is God in a Wotanic disguise.

And that’s why they promise him a bear’s claw. The bear is an animal of Wotan. The warriors of Wotan are called “Berserkers”, “Bearskins”. We’ll talk about the Berserkers later. It has to do with battle frenzy. Wotan is the bestower of victory, that is, when he bestows the flag of victory.

So it’s actually a kind of clothing the God-Image in a pagan garb, as is typical of the Renaissance. The people of the Renaissance thought that they returned to the antique Gods and northwards of the Alps to Wotan. But it is actually not what was intended by the Unconscious. At that time, the Unconscious intended to reconcile Christianity and paganism more closely.

That’s why this vision leaves it so remarkably open. Is it the Holy Trinity or is it a Wotanic threeness? Wotan always walked with Saxnot and Tyr in a group of three among the people and asked them riddles.

So you can see the influence of the spirit of the age in the vision.

Guido Ferrari

So, if I understood it right, then Nicholas sees the Godhead as an ambivalent figure. He is told, you’re approaching God by integrating your animalistic nature, by accepting it. Do that! That’s not the devil, that’s God too.

Marie-Louise von Franz

Exactly, that’s how it is. It is also God in a certain sense.

Medieval man thought too much in black and white. He thought either it’s God or it’s the Devil. During the Renaissance, the Unconscious tries to tell that God has a light side and a dark side. God is also in nature, he is also in the world of affect, he is also in love, he is also in the feminine, he is not in everything that was split off.

[NOTE: According to Jung, Christianity has an incomplete God-Image, for example: nature, affect, romantic love, feminine, and evil are not parts of the Christian God-Image, but spirit, impassibility, non-romantic love, masculine and good are, and God resides only in the latter (split off) things.]

Otherwise you actually have two gods, God and the Devil. This has never been admitted, but in practice it resulted in a split God-Image in Christianity. And the Unconscious wants to reassemble the God-Image into a wholeness.

Guido Ferrari

You can integrate the animalistic nature.

Marie-Louise von Franz

We now know that if a person suppresses his animalistic reactions too much, he becomes severely neurotic or even totally insane or even criminal, and that we are not built in such a way that we should suppress our animal nature too much.

The vision of the pilgrim


So Nicholas had to deal with his animal nature, with his aggressiveness, had to respond to his secret desires. It was not easy for him to look at his dark side, not to avoid what was coming to him in terms of primordial humanity.

He set himself this task in meditation, in his self-chosen solitude, with determination and basic trust. One day, his efforts were rewarded. He had another vision.

He saw a pilgrim who came from where the sun rises in summer. When he was near, he sang Alleluia. And when he sang like that, there was also a counterpart in the voice. And the earth, all that was between heaven and earth, gave echo. The pilgrim asked Nicholas for alms, who gave him a coin. Then the pilgrim was transformed and a magnificent, well-built man stood there, so that Nicholas could only look at him with pleasure and desire.

Great signs then occurred. Mount Pilate, the huge mountain, collapsed. And at the feet of Nicholas, a deep abyss opened, into which many plunged.

Marie-Louise von Franz

He comes from sunrise. The East is the place where the new sun rises, the place of enlightenment, where a new enlightenment or a new possibility of consciousness appears. The west is where the sun sets. That’s where the dying go, the dead disappear in the West. And in the East they rise again, in all myths, with the sun.

And he sang. However, he is still not quite the pagan god Wotan, for he sings Hallelujah, which means glory to God. And obviously, that’s a Christian word of praise that praises God. Thus, one could say that a pagan inner god praises the Christian God. It is, after all, again a reconciliation of opposites, which broke out in the Renaissance as a tremendous conflict in the soul of man, the newly awakened paganism and Christianity in the depths and Christianity on the surface. This is reconciled in this vision, to show that these are opposites that must come together and that must be reconciled, that should not dissolve each other, if we do not want to indulge in a hopeless neurotic dissociation and division.

Then it turns out that this berserker is actually also a spirit of truth. The Spirit of Truth in Christian dogma is the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. And we already had the Paraclete with the clear, hard voice. It is like a reappearance of the Paraclete in this form.

What stands in the way is the self-interest of the people, it is a degeneration of the heart, of the emotional function, of social feeling, and this was more and more the case at the end of the Middle Ages. The social conditions were hair-raising, and the selfishness, that is, the egoism of the people, increased enormously.

Whenever a form of religion no longer fully grasps people or no longer moves them completely, then the individual turns back on himself and is no longer willing to sacrifice for the community, and then this egoistic, materialistic self-interest arises.

This began in the Renaissance and is now flourishing. You don’t have anything anymore, you don’t have a common goal that excites you anymore. There is no longer a social form that sums people up in one feeling and in one enthusiasm. You can’t change that, but it causes this division and fragmentation of society into interest groups, which is destructive.

But the truth is behind people, that is, in their Unconscious, they actually know what the truth is, but they are afraid of it.

That’s still the case, someone could have had the same vision even today.


Suddenly, as the pilgrim was leaving, his bearskin flashed because it was sprinkled with gold. The pilgrim still greeted with great cordiality and love, and Nicholas could hardly accept this honor. But he saw that the pilgrim was full of humility, and it seemed to Brother Klaus that he had tasted the most beautiful and best.

Marie-Louise von Franz

The vision shows that it is a matter of uniting this berserker with the Christian principle and thereby defusing it, this berserker is not dangerous at all, but it overflows with love. The aggression instinct is transformed into fellow humanly Eros.
[NOTE: “fellow humanly Eros” meaning “Love thy neighbor”.]

He is redeemed and not fought or repressed.

At the same time, this vision is something similar to what is known today in psychedelic visions, LSD visions and so on, namely that of a so-called cosmic feeling. But, when it’s induced chemically, then it has pathological traits, because it’s taken out of context, whereas here it comes spontaneously towards Nicholas from the soul of its own accord, and is therefore not pathological, but is a supreme experience of all-unity with the cosmos, as it has also been experienced in shamanism and by many other mystics and all religions.

It is a oneness with the whole of nature, with the divine background of nature and a realization of the sense. It is as if, suddenly, in a flash, in a sudden moment of enlightenment, one becomes aware of the whole context of the cosmos and of human life and the process of history and the meaning of one’s own existence.

Even dying people sometimes seem to have such realizations.

It is one of the highest experiences that man can have in his life. What it does is, it creates a feeling of complete peace. To a certain extent, the berserker-like restlessness, the “I have to do something” or the “I have to undertake something”, suddenly stops. You are at peace with yourself and have the feeling that you now know what you are there for, and what the meaning of your whole life and existence is.

This creates an inner peace.

Inner peace and saving the Confederacy


Nicholas finally found inner peace. Through meditation he came more and more into harmony with himself and with all living things. This immersion in himself did not exclude anything. All the way to breathing with the animals, to feeling the course of the year, autumn, winter. But he followed the bright green of spring just as much as he could surrender to the strong colors of summer. He managed to truly experience the annual cycle as a circle, as a constant movement, in the ever-new now.

Nicholas and his special way of life found more and more admiration among the people, first among the people of Obwalden. Soon, however, it spread beyond the cantonal and national borders. Brother Klaus, the living saint in the Ranft, it was said. He was also asked for advice when it came to saving the young Confederation.
[NOTE: The Swiss Confederation.]

There were many reasons that threatened the unity in December 1481. The situation seemed to be too difficult – the powerful and the people were at odds with each other – as if a solution could be brought about at the meeting convened in Stans. But with Nicholas’ help and advice, an agreement was reached.

Marie-Louise von Franz

It’s not at all the words that are important directly. His words are simply reasonable. It’s what any wise old farmer could have said. It is pure reason what he has preached. But the miracle is that it worked. As is well known, reason does not work at all in such historical moments. It is simply swept away by the Berserker God, by the Fury of War. Affect sweeps reason under the table. And so the wars erupt into a moment of psychotic disintegration. And the miracle is that these simple words of Brother Klaus worked in such a way that a civil war was prevented.

This shows that all peace marches and all well-meaning peace sermons are of no use if one has not first found peace within oneself. What worked was not the words, but the personality of Brother Klaus. All the delegates had such tremendous respect for him and for his inner wisdom. They had an inkling of his superior inner development. And it worked. It is the power of personality that has worked.


Hundreds of pilgrims, including many sick people, came to Nicholas in the Ranft. He helped, encouraged and lifted up the stooping ones. His own experiences, his path of inner purification, had made him a great healer.

Marie-Louise von Franz

Every true healer in the whole world always says that he cannot heal himself. No human being can heal another human being with the “I”. But those who have found the connection with the divine source in their own soul, with the source of life within and the source of salvation within themselves, have a charisma through which they can also help other people.

The vision of God’s Piercing Gaze


About ten years before his death, Nicholas had another vision that terrified him deeply. He had to face the penetrating gaze of God. He felt overwhelmed by the force. And from that day on, his eyes were full of terror, as many of his visitors could remark.

Marie-Louise von Franz

This terrible and dark side of God was still preserved in the God-Image in the Old Testament and was then brought out again afterwards, for example, in the schism in Protestantism.

But in the Middle Ages, this dark side of God was, as it were, repressed and no longer taken into account by theology, but was overshadowed by the praise of the God of love and the highest good. But this left one question unanswered, the question of the origin of evil.

This question torments us today, when we are facing a possible nuclear disaster. Today we can no longer ignore the fact that there is abysmal evil in creation and in human beings, and that this also somehow sheds light on the image of the Godhead. The wrathful or dark god, is an archetypal image from which a great many people usually perish, because, as in the case of Nicholas, it could cause a tremendous shock and inner rupture.

Nicholas did what Job did. He submitted, he threw himself on the ground, he held on to the ground of reality and then took a long time to slowly process this tremendous experience.


As an aid to meditation, he used the pure geometrical symbol of the six-spoked wheel, without pictorial painting. Three spokes point in a wedge-shaped form with the tip towards the center, the other three with the tip pointing outwards.

Marie-Louise von Franz

The wheel image is in psychological language means a mandala and that is again a symbol of wholeness. A mandala is simply called a magic circle and a mandala is usually a magic circle divided into four parts, with which in all religions of the world man tries to restore his inner stability and inner order. In Eastern religions, mandalas are artificially made and used for contemplative purposes for the purpose of inner concentration on the divine inner center.

But even modern people often draw such mandalas spontaneously and that, if it is real and not simply imitated, always has the effect of an inner integration, a finding of inner peace, and the rediscovery of the inner balance, an awareness of the larger context, of the context of meaning in which one belongs inwardly, and of the place that one occupies in the cosmos and thus a pacification.

So enduring all the darkness without going crazy or without becoming cynical, that’s what it’s all about. Because only then can we possibly have the hope of dealing with it or finding the right attitude.

It also shows how his Catholic faith, to which he has always adhered, has helped him to overcome the problem. If he hadn’t had it, he probably would have become a heretic who no longer believed in a good God.

At that time, and even in the early Middle Ages and before, there were always sects that believed in a destructive God. In Jakob Böhme‘s work, the dark god also reappears, the wrath fire of God that does everything. Jakob Böhme was not able to reconcile the two opposites.

Cardinal Nicolaus Cusanus, on the other hand, knew something about it when he praised God not as the Summon Bonum, the highest good, but as a complex oppositorum, a union of opposites, a reconciliation of opposites.

And we see this again and again today in the soul of man. It is not a question of thinking that others are evil and fighting it, but of letting the darkness of one’s own inner self work its magic on oneself and letting oneself be completely depressed by it, until one reaches a point where the opposites reconcile and come together.

And that was the real great task to which Brother Klaus dedicated himself in his loneliness.

The kitchen vision


After many years of meditation, Nicholas had one last great vision. He found himself in a field where many people were doing hard work. The people were very poor. He entered a kitchen from his gate and saw wine, oil, and honey flowing down into a pot from above. He wanted to see the source of this trickle, so he climbed four steps and entered a huge hall full of brightness. In the middle of this room stood a box from which the clearest water flowed in four kennels. Nicholas wondered why people didn’t come and draw, but they were busy with other things. Then he saw that some had put up a fence and were demanding a chunk of customs money from those who wanted to get in. But they could not pay and therefore had no access to the well, to the spring.

Marie-Louise von Franz

How does Brother Klaus feel about society? This problem is touched upon in the vision. First he comes into a kitchen. Symbolically, the kitchen usually means the place of transformation, where the raw food is transformed into civilized food and where the spiritual food of the human being also comes from. There are three flowing below, there we have again the threeness motif, wine, oil and vinegar. Wine and oil are sacred substances in the Church’s liturgy and honey usually signifies Eros, the principle of love. This was obviously the distribution of the Christian means of grace contained in the lower kitchen. But people do not make use of these either, because they are all pursuing their own self-interest.

Again, this is the problem that we had before, when the truth was behind the backs of people whose hearts have an infirmity called selfishness. With the Renaissance, man’s worldliness began to take over, and with it the ever-increasing materialism that has become more and more widespread to this day. Until today we even believe that it is only about making money and economic issues in human life. Collectively, everything is just economic and social issues and no one cares about the human soul. That was also the case back then, only a few go to a higher level.

The four steps that lead up would mean the attainment of a higher level of consciousness. These people who run after their own self-interest outside the kitchen, and even those who are in the kitchen, are, in a sense, the unconscious. If you look at a higher point of view, you come to the square box. Here, the four, which is superior to three, is higher up. There the mandala is complete.

This tabernacle is, so to speak, a three-dimensional mandala and that would mean that now the inner soul core that Brother Klaus is striving for, whose development and consciousness Brother Klaus has strived for in his loneliness, has reached its goal and has achieved its satisfaction.

The fountain of life is a symbol of divinity in the Christian tradition and also an image of Christ, Christ is the rock from which water was hewn, the water of wisdom, or the water of insight.

Nicholas’ miracles after his death


Nicholas finally found within himself access to the divine source. Now great light filled him with serenity and peace. On March 21, 1487, just as spring came, Nicholas died. Even after his death, he was there for everyone who asked him for help. And even in our day, Nicholas helps those who suffer. Here is the testimony of a woman whose case was examined by the doctors of the University Hospital of Basel.

Witness A

I arrived in Saxony in great pain and couldn’t even move my arm yet. And then my mother said, when I was leaving, if you can touch Brother Klaus’s clothes, then go to the clothes with the sick arm. And then I did, as my mother said, I was the fifth who could touch the dress, and I took my right arm and lifted my left arm to Brother Klaus’s clothes. And when I touched the clothes, an electric current went through my body. It went down to my toe, to my brain, through my whole body, down to my fingertip. But I didn’t dare to say anything. Then somebody came to me and asked, Ida, what happened to you? Your face has all kinds of colors. Do you feel sick? And I just said no.

And when I wanted to get into the car, a very light current went through my body again. And at that moment I took the sling, that I used to wear, off my arm, and lifted my arm, what I could never do as a child. And then everyone shouted, Ida can move her arm and the priest sang the song. Great God, we praise you.


In the testimony of the healed, one can feel, even years later, the deep affect that the miracle brought about. Another instance of miraculous intervention occurred towards the end of World War II. When Switzerland was threatened by an invasion by the German troops. The witness wishes to remain anonymous.

Witness B

At about nine o’clock I saw a conspicuous bright light in a northwesterly direction from Waldenburg over the mountain, which was out of proportion to the dark evening sky. And this then developed in a very short time into a clear hand. A hand that anatomically and proportionally corresponded absolutely to a real hand. The apparition lasted about half an hour and I wasn’t really frightened at all.

I had the opportunity to follow this development closely. And perhaps more so, since we in the Observer Company are appointed to observe well.

But it is quite interesting in relation to the different observers. There were about 43 Witnesses. That was certainly proof to me that I saw right. And judging that by the location of the observers, I was about in the middle of the hand, in the extension. And if one now imagines that if this had been a projection and the outermost observers on the left or right had been almost so on the sides that they had seen the hand shortened, they would also have had a completely distorted picture of the hand.

So even from this point of view, the picture seems supernatural to me.


This witness, too, has the firm belief that Nicholas has once again rescued the Swiss Confederation from a serious threat. The miracles that Nicholas is said to have performed after his death are a difficult and sensitive subject. What does Marie-Louise von Franz think about this?

Marie-Louise von Franz

There’s a question that can’t be answered. Is it simply the archetype that is enlivened in us and that we project onto Brother Klaus, who heals us when we go to Saxony and pray for healings, or when we have such a vision? Or is it Brother Klaus himself who continues to have an impact? Is his immortal soul still around and working? This is a question that cannot be answered scientifically.

One can only say that he is the archetype of the healer and it has an immortal, a timeless side. If a person descends deep enough into the depths of his own soul, then he comes into a stratum that is not contained in historical time, and then he acquires, as it were, a timeless significance. How it really is, whether it is a projection or whether it is real, real in a parapsychological sense, we cannot answer. I have the impression that it is real, but I can’t prove it. If someone doesn’t want to believe it, he shouldn’t believe it.

One could say that what we learn in school as the process of history, the comings and goings of cultures and nations, all of which perish in the dust of darkness and the water of death of transience, that underneath there is yet another stream of events, a gradual process of consciousness of humanity that extends very slowly over the centuries.

This is what it is all about, and the important personalities are those who serve humanity’s process of becoming conscious and not the current goals of politics or cultural policy or ideologies. Brother Klaus had his position within this framework.

We see in the visions that he is a man of the Renaissance and that the subterranean problems of the Renaissance man have haunted him, that the timeless questions that were constellated in that century have arisen in his soul, and that he has been able to find a solution to them for himself, and has not been overwhelmed by them.

And because it’s a very slow process that spans centuries, these visions are still relevant. They tell us as much as they tell him. They still contain a message.

And that is why he is, so to speak, still a source of life for people. He is a person to whom one can still orient oneself, because he has carried the light to a certain extent in humanity’s subterranean, continuous process of becoming conscious.

About the author


Add comment

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

Sum it up for me

Recent Posts

Recent Comments