I can’t remember exactly when or where I ran across Brother Klaus. I was familiar with him before encountering his wheel in Jung’s work, and as far as I can remember I was familiar with his story long before my interest in hermits and alchemy bloomed in general. I’ve always had a strong sense of déjà vu in regards to the Swiss mystic and that is probably why I can’t quite pin down the when and where in my memory patterns my first exposure took place. I’ve long suspected feelings of déjà vu are created from a combination of memory damage, similar memories resurfacing together, and synchronicity.
In terms of my current thinking in regards to our ego and identity being strange self aware loops trapped by the rest of the brain, I think déjà vu as an agent of dissociation is very probable, a memory accessed in a damaged area breaking the maze of a trapped strange loop for a moment until the ego rushes in to reassert the illusion of I and control.
During Christmas holidays during the 4th grade, I came down with scarlet fever. It was the first case in decades at the hospital I was treated at, no one knows where I picked it up from, and it took them a while to diagnose me and for three days I ran a very high fever and was in and out of consciousness. I had a series of strange dreams, more befuddled vision than dream really, and when I finally recovered I had a hard time reconciling the me before my sickness with the me afterwards. I was different. I was aware that my mind was working differently, perhaps from damage incurred from the days of high fever, and while I didn’t have an identity crisis per se, it was a curious thing to recover and yet still not seem whole to myself.
I think my initial encounter with Nicholas lies in some fever damaged neuron cluster from my 4th grade self. We traveled Bavaria extensively that year, though not Switzerland and Austria until a few years later. But I spent a long weekend in Garmisch once upon a time, and I wonder now if I soaked up knowledge of Brother Klaus there or from some book I read on medieval European history.
Feelings of déjà vu often make trivial associations seems important. So as I grew older and ran across Nicholas time and again, I was compelled to dig deeper. My obsessions with alchemy, hermits, and eventually Jungian psychology came from that belief, my rationalization of a sickness (subconsciously a fear I had had a brush with death) and that I shared a mystical connection with Brother Klaus. I mean in the clutches of that fever I had had the most vivid dreams in my rather short life. Dreams I still remember clearly today, they’ve never faded. They had to mean something more than a couple of neural nets burning out and wires crossing. Even as a young man in my twenties I continued to rationalize my experience.
But as time goes on, memories do fade, associations get moved to the back burner, eventually back into the subconscious and background processes as you discover new holy grails and images that speak to you. Nicholas of Flüe disappeared from my conscious mind for over a decade. I felt that I had exhausted all avenues, and moved on.
But then recently I dreamed of the wheel:
Usually I associate wheels with St. Catherine and by extension St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai, and Sophia. But Brother Klaus’ wheel is a rather distinct image and as soon as my mind pulled it up from the subconscious, all the associated information came with it, and I’m back to pondering déjà vu, archetypes, and that path of fool>pilgrim>mystic/hermit. Strange loops indeed.
For an interesting read for those on the road to find out, I highly suggest The Wheel Image of Nicholas von Flue as Symbol of the Subtle Body by Remo F. Roth. Can’t quite bring myself to say I ran across it by happenstance recently, but it was a welcome addition to my sources for contemplation.