Carl Gustav Jung’s work is enigmatic and fascinating and therefore legendary. Many people understood the psychoanalyst’s theories as provocative and stimulating. Others saw in them only the delusions of a mentally ill person who condemned all of humanity. Some people say of Jung’s Red Book that a spirit of the underworld passes through its pages, trying to save its soul.
If the world of psychology still holds secrets, then we can find them here, in this Jung manuscript, written between 1914 and 1930. It is an unfinished book that comes across as prophetic as well as mystical and psychological. It also contains shocking illustrations of deities that could easily be mistaken for demons.
There are only a few who try to understand the Red Book , which Jung also called Liber Novus , on a logical basis. Because maybe that’s exactly what the author didn’t want. Perhaps we don’t even have to explain the content of the book in terms of scientific theories if writing was primarily a cathartic exercise for the author. A type of personal therapy in which Jung’s demons tormenting his mind were given free rein in a moment of existential crisis.
Maybe it was that and nothing else. But there is another piece of the puzzle. After Jung died, his family suspiciously guarded the manuscript and kept it under lock and key. The manuscript was kept in a house in Küsnacht, a suburb of Zurich (Switzerland). The family did not allow anyone to approach him, neither students nor other “specialists”. Later, in 1984, the Red Book was taken to a bank. Ulrich Hörni, Jung’s grandson, did not have the manuscript published until 2009. This long-awaited event left experts and fans breathless and speechless.
The manuscript looks like a holy but forbidden Bible because it is bound in red leather. It is filled with pretty parchment paper and decorated with gold letters, which we would now like to take a closer look at.
The Red Book Carl Gustav Jung: A spirit in crisis
“The spirit of the deep has subjugated all pride and arrogance to the power of judgment. It robbed me of my belief in science, it robbed me of my joy in explaining and ordering things, and it erased in me my devotion to the ideals of that time. He made me do the last and simplest things. “
This quote comes from a paragraph in the first chapter of the Red Book . Those who are familiar with Jung, but the Red Book do not yet know, will probably notice the sound of the text strange and self-contradictory. When we read this text, we have the feeling that a dark world unfolds before our inner eye.
It is interesting that after the text was published, experts like Andrew Samuels were quick to point out that Jung had no mental illness whatsoever. Others, however, said that this book must have been the result of a psychotic phase that Jung went through after his arguments with Freud.
In fact, Jung experienced a deep personal crisis. He began to write a new chapter in his life that led to intellectual advancement. In 1914 he began to write the Red Book , shortly after the outbreak of the First World War, when he was working as a doctor and psychiatrist in Switzerland. Jung was deeply disappointed in humanity and extremely skeptical of the rational science of his time.
The cathartic end of the Red Book
The Red Book is above all an intimate diary. It is easy to get into trouble trying to unravel the jumble of symbols, codes, and alchemy. This is simply because no one can fully penetrate this alien spirit that created this work. Moreover, this spirit is one of the best examples of the dreamlike universe.
On the pages of the Red Book , Jung explored his own psyche and his relationship to his subconscious. In other words, to a very complex, internal structure to which, of course, only Jung alone had access. He used the so-called psychonautical technique to research them. Through active ideas that he created while meditating, he allowed the inner images to flow freely. These images finally found their way into the manuscript as illustrations.
This is how the archetypes for which Jung is known today emerged. The more turbulent inner world that existed in Jung comes to the fore again and again, like our own shadow, which we often do not recognize, but which shows the shape of our true selves.
Carl Gustav Jung’s advice
Something strange, but also interesting, happened at the time of the Red Book’s publication in 2009. Many of Jung’s previous patients published testimonies, and it seems that they actually understood the purpose of this book.
While some are in danger of drowning in the literary ocean that Jung created, which is full of wisdom but also harbors reptilian brains, starved dragons and Kundalini snakes, others remember the advice Jung used to give:
“I advise you to write everything down as nicely as you can – in a beautifully bound book. It seems like you are trivializing the visions, but you have to do that in order to break free of their power. When these things are in a precious book, you can take the book and turn the pages and for yourself it will be your church, your cathedral, the quiet place of your spirit where you will find renewal. If someone tells you that it is morbid or neurotic and you listen to that person, then you lose your soul because in this book is your soul. “
Carl Gustav Jung
Here we read wise advice from a wise teacher whose shadows and intellectual heritage still excite and astonish us today.