Red book

Gentle Readers,

For those who follow my writings it is difficult to know where to start or who to start with in my study of the "Tomorrow People" which as I perceive it now is a combination of Prophets and those who have seen or heard the voice of God. So much to consider. There are those who "see" into the future, and those who just see the world clearly without pre cognitive presuppustional apologetics1 With that in mind I decided to start with "The Red Book’ written by Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist, an influential thinker and the founder of analytical psychology (also known as Jungian psychology). Jung's radical approach to psychology has been influential in the field of depth psychology and in counter-cultural movements across the globe. Jung is considered as the first modern psychologist to state that the human psyche is "by nature religious" and to explore it in depth. His many major works include "Analytic Psychology: Its Theory and Practice," "Man and His Symbols," "Memories, Dreams, Reflections," "The Collected Works of Carl G. Jung," and "The Red Book." Which if you get a copy you’ll be ahead when we discuss it on my blog. What he discovered were manifestations of both his personal and collective unconscious. In this sense, he demonstrated by personal example that the enigmatic phenomenon we call "psychosis" is often about being completely inundated or possessed by the personal and archetypal unconscious rather than caused by a genetically predisposed biochemical imbalance or "broken brain," that it has psychological and spiritual significance, meaning and purpose, and that it can potentially be psychotherapeutically treated with the proper skills, commitment and knowledge. C.G. Jung's Red Book begins as a detailed log of one man's personal, lonely nekyia or night sea journey (What was called Dark Night of the Soul by St John of the Cross)2 to the underworld and ends with his heroic return to the outer world renewed, much like a latter day Dante, Jonah or Ulysses. This, as he came to understand, is an excellent description of what real psychotherapy is or can be all about. Jung was a unique scholar, he had a very distinctive ability to blend a lot of knowledge from seemingly unrelated areas of science into psychology. His biography is an essential starting point to understand how he managed to develop this quality, which I think was key to his original thinking.

What we find is that Jung as well as St John of the cross came to a crossroads in which each of them stepped over from what most call the "real world" into another area. But what was it that they found and why was it necessary to go through this journey.

So we ask the questions "Do all of mankind go through theses paths or are there just a few hardy souls who are willing to enter into the very presence of God. Some hear his "still small almost silent voice" while others come to an unique understanding of who God is and our sense of belonging. It seems that for each individual it is somewhat different. Depending oh their need and from my perspective the times in which we live. Is it possible the term we call God is a direction that we being lead? And to what end? We want to look first at Jung’s "The Red Book" for some insights.

Carl Jung is a fascinating character in psychology’s history.

Mentored by Freud himself, Jung broke off from Freud to found his own theory of human behavior, nowadays generally referred to as Jungian psychology. The Jungian theories place more emphasis on the spiritual side of our inner psyche, and the belief that all of humanity shares what he referred to as a collective unconscious. He also believed in the power of archetypes — that our myths and symbols are universal and innate and serve a greater purpose in helping us learn from each of our stages in life.

Carl Jung died 48 years ago, but he still has a devout following of professionals, clinicians and researchers who believe in the power of his theories. While not a popular form of psychotherapy in the United States, it remains a niche in psychology that nonetheless carries on Jung’s theories and practices.

In his late 30s, Jung started writing a book called The Red Book. The Red Book is part journal, part mythological novel that takes the reader through Jung’s fantasies — hallucinations he self-induced to try and get to the core of his unconscious. And as a theorist, he wanted to document his 16-year journey, so he wrote down everything he experience, saw and felt:

Jung recorded it all. First taking notes in a series of small, black journals, he then expounded upon and analyzed his fantasies, writing in a regal, prophetic tone in the big red-leather book. The book detailed an unabashedly psychedelic voyage through his own mind, a vaguely Homeric progression of encounters with strange people taking place in a curious, shifting dreamscape. Writing in German, he filled 205 oversize pages with elaborate calligraphy and with richly hued, staggeringly detailed paintings.

For decades, The Red Book has been wrapped in mystery, because it has never been published. It was thought that only one copy of the book existed — locked in a Swiss safe deposit box by the heirs to C.G. Jung’s estate.

As it turns out, however, copies of the book have been around if one searched hard enough to find them. A historian by the name of Sonu Shamdasani found said copies and after three years of discussions with the descendants of Jung, convinced the family to allow him access to the original to translate and finally publish it. The book will finally be published next month. It's here but not cheap and you need a key as it were to understand it.

But what will readers find in the Red Book? And is it of any value to anyone who isn’t a hard-core Jungian? Answers to the first question can be glimpsed by reading the full New York Times article on the book:

The central premise of the book, Shamdasani told me, was that Jung had become disillusioned with scientific rationalism — what he called "the spirit of the times" — and over the course of many quixotic encounters with his own soul and with other inner figures, he comes to know and appreciate "the spirit of the depths," a field that makes room for magic, coincidence and the mythological metaphors delivered by dreams. [...]

The Red Book is not an easy journey — it wasn’t for Jung, it wasn’t for his family, nor for Shamdasani, and neither will it be for readers. The book is bombastic, baroque and like so much else about Carl Jung, a willful oddity, synched with an antediluvian and mystical reality. The text is dense, often poetic, always strange. The art is arresting and also strange. Even today, its publication feels risky, like an exposure. But then again, it is possible Jung intended it as such. In 1959, after having left the book more or less untouched for 30 or so years, he penned a brief epilogue, acknowledging the central dilemma in considering the book’s fate. "To the superficial observer," he wrote, "it will appear like madness." Yet the very fact he wrote an epilogue seems to indicate that he trusted his words would someday find the right audience.

But answers to the second question will be harder to come by. While some of Jung’s theories have become a part of the popular culture of psychology, most of Jung is difficult to digest and accept at face value. His theories are very creative and interesting, but it’s hard to generalize from one’s man’s own inner life and turmoil. For understanding Jung, his life, and where all of his psychological theories came from, it will be a treasure trove indeed. For the rest of us, however, its value may be more ethereal and harder to grasp.

The historian who did the translation over the past few years has said the book’s basic message is "Value your inner life." Whether you read it or not, that’s a message worthy of any great theorist in psychology.

Next time ...